The First Railway Station: Unlikely Home for the First Computer

The Liverpool Street Station in Manchester, England is now part of The museum of Science and Technology. The Station was built in 1830 and is the oldest railway station in the world. On the opposite side of the tracks to the ticketing hall is the world’s first railway warehouse. In this building is a working replica of the worlds first stored program computer, Baby, the Manchester Mk I Prototype.

The Liverpool Street Station Building Manchester.

The Warehouse at the Liverpool Street Station.

The Replica of Baby, the Manchester Mk I Prototype.

The juxtaposition of these two firsts raised many questions in my mind: Why was the first “Stored Program” computer so important? Why Railways and Computers in Manchester? How were the two revolutions prompted by these inventions similar and what can they tell us about the nature of radical technological change? But, what bothered me most as I stood alone in the room that housed the Baby Replica was the complete absence of any serious attempt by the Museum to answer these questions.

The Baby was hidden on the top floor of the warehouse. The “explanation” of the machine that was provided was pitched at the average 13 year old visitor. There was almost no explanation of the context in which the machine was developed and no analysis of the machines impact or importance. I understand that many museums would claim it is for historians not museums to provide such analysis. But standing in front of what many people claim as the World’s first computer that argument seemed like a thin excuse.

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  • Mike Terry

    Excellent, you are one one of the answers in todays’s Sunday Times “Where in the World” competition so lots of people will be googling this site.

    I have an affinity with the area as my mother came from Stockport and I rememer travelling by steam train from Euston to Stockport.

    Hope to vist the museum one day.



  • Ian slater

    It’s true, I am one of those Googlers. Let’s hope I’m a winner this week.

  • Peter Lineton

    Like Mike Terry,I found my way to your site via th Sunday Times comp,I had no idea that this old station had been developed in this way,as it is many years since I trod its platforms when I did my National Service in the 50s. Once my grandsons know that you have the earliest computers on show,I will no doubt be bringing them to visit. At least if the displays are aimed at younger teenagers it won’t be above my head. Peter Lineton Telford

  • Anne Mason

    Am beginning to wonder how many people enter this wonderful competition each week. I have always been under the misapprehension that I had a chance of winning!

  • Lisa Sevell

    Nice to know I’m on the right track regards ANO competition entrant

  • Linda Davis

    I agree with everyone. It’ marvellous what you learn each week about GB.

  • Mike Mears

    Does anyone know of a forum for us Sunday Times travellers? Thanks for providing the answer to the clue!

  • Iain Philips

    And I thought I was the only one that entered the Sunday Times travel comp each week. Never could understand why I never won though! I do enjoy researching interesting bits about the UK. I actually got this one right without too much research because I went to UMIST in 1992.Also visited the excellent museum Love the idea of a ST Comp forum, fab idea Mick. Greeting everyone.

  • Nige

    es but what’s the answer to the competition – DUH. I watch Richard and Judy and always get the answers wrong. For example, they could ask : The state of Florida is otherwise known as:

    (a) The Gulag Archipelago

    (b) Telly Tubbies Land

    or (c) the Sunshine State

    and I always go for the wrong answer. WAHHHHHHHHHHH it’s not fair

  • Patricia Clark

    Just found this site through Where Was I? research. My mission every week is to find these answers and perseverance does pay. I won a wonderful trip to Marrakech through this competition earlier this year, so hang in there! Even without winning, I’ve learnt a lot about our country and have even visited some of the places mentioned. Good luck to all you Where Was I’s!

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