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Brook, R., 2019.

Building Knowledge, building buildings: Cold War Computing Clusters in the North-West

Output Type:Conference paper
Presented at:The Place of Industry: SMG Research Conference
Venue:Science and Industry Museum, Manchester
Dates:4/11/2019 - 5/11/2019

In the years following the Second World War a significant amount of technological research and development, focussed in the North-West and Manchester, realised both the first universal computer and the first commercially produced computer. The region was a hub for innovation foreshadowed by the Cold War and the race to develop nuclear weaponry. Drawing primarily on archival sources, this talk will use place and the histories of a series of buildings as a means to disclose the relationships between university led research, government ministries, nationalised industries, their organising bodies and the private sector in the development and application of the computer. It is a tale of ad-hoc invention and make-do-and-mend construction, typical of a resource starved era and stereotypically British in its material assemblage. The first building in the world designed for the computer still stands at Manchester University, Ferranti's missile factory at Wythenshawe and computer factory in West Gorton are demolished, the UK Atomic Energy Authority no longer has estate at Warrington and the National Computing Centre's functions are dissolved and its headquarters reconfigured as commercial office space. For a time, the work of all of these agencies was intertwined and their regional geography, informed by the 'Warfare State,' can reveal the close association between government, academia and industry linked through personal, policy and place.