The general control console and chasis of the pilot ACE computer, 1950.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
First demonstrated in 1950, this is one of Britain's earliest stored program computers and the oldest complete general purpose electronic computer in Britain. Designed and built at the National Physical Laboratory, Middlesex in 1949-1950, it was based on plans for a larger computer (the ACE) designed by the mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954) at NPL between 1945 and 1947. Previously Turing worked on the Colosus computer used in codebreaking at Bletchley Park during World War II. The pilot ACE was estimated to have cost £50,000 to design and build, but by 1954 had earned over £240,000 from advanced scientific and engineering work in various fields including crystallography, aeronautics and computing bomb trajectories.