Monday, October 31, 2022

Kathleen Booth, RIP

Liam Proven (Hacker News):

Professor Kathleen Booth, one of the last of the early British computing pioneers, has died. She was 100.


In 1946, Britten and Booth collaborated at Birkbeck on a very early digital computer, the Automatic Relay Calculator (ARC), and in doing so founded what is now Birkbeck’s Department of Computer Science and Information Systems.


Booth and Britten returned to the UK and redesigned their calculator based around these ideas, leading to the ARC2 and in the process inventing the first drum memory to provide enough storage to hold both program information and data. Building the ARC2 from relays proved too much, so in 1948, Booth and Britten moved on to the Simple Electronic Computer (SEC) and then the All Purpose Electronic X-Ray Computer or APE(X)C.


As well as building the hardware for the first machines, she wrote all the software for the ARC2 and SEC machines, in the process inventing what she called Contracted Notation. This language, through evolution and contributions by others, is today known as assembly language.

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