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Computing Britain

Updated 15 days ago

Technology
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Hannah Fry looks back at 75 years of computing history to reveal the UK's lead role in developing the technologies we rely on today

Read more

Hannah Fry looks back at 75 years of computing history to reveal the UK's lead role in developing the technologies we rely on today

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Best weekly hand curated episodes for learning

Cover image of Computing Britain

Computing Britain

Latest release on Nov 16, 2015

Best weekly hand curated episodes for learning

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 15 days ago

Rank #1: Connected Thinking

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Long before the heroics of the world wide web, the internet was born out of a mixture of American ambition and British thrift. Packet Switching was the name coined by Welsh computer scientist Donald Davies in an effort to link the early computers in the labs of the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington.

Presented by Hannah Fry

Produced by Alex Mansfield.

Nov 16 2015

14mins

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Rank #2: ERNIE Picks Prizes

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'Savings with a thrill!'

In 1956, adverts enticed the British public with a brand new opportunity. Buy premium bonds for one pound, for the chance to win a thousand. At the time, it was a fortune - half the price of the average house.

Behind this tantalising dream was a machine called ERNIE - the Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment.

ERNIE was built by the team who constructed Colossus, the code-breaking engine housed at Bletchley Park. They had just nine months to make a machine that generated random numbers using all the latest kit, from printed circuit boards to metal transistors.

In this episode, mathematician Hannah Fry talks to Dr Tilly Blyth from the Science Museum about how ERNIE became an unlikely celebrity.
Featuring archive from NS&I, the Science Museum and the BBC Library.

Presented by Hannah Fry

Produced by Michelle Martin

Photo: ERNIE 1
Credit: NS&I.

Nov 16 2015

14mins

Play

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Rank #3: The Job Killer

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From the earliest days of electronic computers, commentators feared that mass unemployment would result from the efficiencies of computers and automation in the workplace. These fears would resurface over the decades, but came to a head towards the end of the 1970s with the coming of relatively cheap microprocessors.

Presented by Hannah Fry

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Nov 16 2015

14mins

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Rank #4: Mobile Revolution

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Hannah Fry tells the story of the little known British company in Cambridge that designs and build the ARM chip, found in almost every mobile device in the world, and the impact it has had in powering the digital age.

The team at Acorn had designed the BBC Micro back in the early 1980s. In an attempt to stay ahead they decided to design a new kind of microprocessor chip, the RISC chip. They used it in the Acorn Archimedes which was the fastest computer in the world when it was released in 1987.

After falling on hard times when the PC became the dominant computer the company was saved when Apple chose to put the ARM chip in their personal digital assistant, the Newton. ARM chips became ubiquitous as digital devices became smaller.

Now they are driving the tiny devices such as the Raspberry Pi and the BBC Micro:bit which aim to encourage young people to code, just as the BBC Micro did three decades ago.

Nov 16 2015

14mins

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Rank #5: Dotcom Bubble

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The city went crazy for dot com companies in 1999. But in March 2000, the boom suddenly turned into a bust. Hannah discovers that technology then wasn't up to the job.

Nov 16 2015

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