National Physical Laboratory

History of NPL Computing

Donald Davies
Donald Davies

During the second half of the twentieth century, the use of computers transformed life in the developed world.

NPL is one of the places that gave birth to modern computing; Alan Turing played a leading role and his plans led to the development of the Pilot ACE and ACE computers.

In the 1960s, NPL played a leading part in the marriage of computer and communications, with the development by Donald Davies of computer networks based on packet switching.

Signficant Dates
1945 Alan Turing joins NPL
1946 Turing's plans for ACE
1950 Pilot ACE computer
1957 ACE computer
1960 Contribution to the development of ALGOL 60
1963 Wilkinson's work on error analysis
1964 Cyclops: automatic character recognitionx - Pattern recognition
1966 Proposal for digital communications networkx - Packet switching
1967 Machine translation - from Russian to English
1970 The NPL Network - first local-area network in the world
1971 Scrapbookx - pioneering combination of word processing, electronic mail and hypertext
1980 Pascal compiler validation
1987 Conformance testing of communication protocols and data security


ACE Pilot Model 1950
ACE Pilot Model 1950