Much of the early engineering development of digital computers was done in universities. A few years ago, the view was commonly expressed that universities had played their part in computer design, and that the matter could now safely be left to industry. [...] Apart from the obvious functions of keeping in the public domain material that might otherwise be hidden, universities can make a special contribution by reason of their freedom from commercial considerations, including freedom from the need to follow the fashion.
Sect. 1: Pioneering Days
I well remember when this realization first came on me with full force. The EDSAC was on the top floor of the building and the tape-punching and editing equipment one floor below. [...] It was on one of my journeys between the EDSAC room and the punching equipment that "hesitating at the angles of stairs" the realization came over me with full force that a good part of the remainder of my life was going to be spent in finding errors in my own programs.Maurice Wilkes
A source of strength in the early days was that groups in various parts of the world were prepared to construct experimental computers without necessarily intending them to be the prototype for serial production. As a result, there became available a body of knowledge about what would work and what would not work.Maurice Wilkes
In the judgment of design engineers, the ordinary means of communicating with a computer are entirely inadequate. [...] Graphical communication in some form or other is of vital importance in engineering as that subject is now conducted; we must either provide the capability in our computer systems, or take on the impossible task of training up a future race of engineers conditioned to think in a different way.Maurice Wilkes
The artificial intelligence approach may not be altogether the right one to make to the problem of designing automatic assembly devices. Animals and machines are constructed from entirely different materials and on quite different principles. When engineers have tried to draw inspiration from a study of the way animals work they have usually been misled; the history of early attempts to construct flying machines with flapping wings illustrates this very clearly.Maurice Wilkes
Surveying the shifts of interest among computer scientists and the ever-expanding family of those who depend on computers for their work, one cannot help being struck by the power of the computer to bind together, in a genuine community of interest, people whose motivations differ widely.Maurice Wilkes
Professor Wilkes is best known as the builder and designer of the EDSAC, the first computer with an internally stored program. Built in 1949, the EDSAC used a mercury delay line memory. He is also known as the author, with Wheeler and Gill, of a volume on "Preparation of Programs for Electronic Digital Computers" in 1951, in which program libraries were effectively introduced.Maurice Wilkes