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Programmers’ Handbook (3rd Edition) For the Manchester Electronic Computer Mark 11

Alan Turing [revised by] Ralph A Brooker
The world’s first computer programming manual for a stored-program computer, written in Manchester by Alan Turing, found here in its third, revis… Read more
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Programmers’ Handbook (3rd Edition) For the Manchester Electronic Computer Mark 11 by Alan Turing [revised by] Ralph A Brooker

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The world’s first computer programming manual for a stored-program computer, written in Manchester by Alan Turing, found here in its third, revised edition.

Foolscap format (21x33cm) with printed card wrappers, ring-bound through three hole-punched holes. Early ownership inscription, later scrubbed out, top right of the upper cover appears to read ‘J Poll’. Light marks to the covers. Provenance: from the collection of William ‘Jack’ Robinson, a mathematician who worked in the University of Bradford Computing Laboratory in the 1960s and afterwards. The mathematician has left occasional pencilled annotation to the text and loosely inserted a couple of pages of his own calculations.

There are 196 pages of text reproduced from a typescript which begins with Turing’s unsigned 1951 ‘Preface to the First Edition’ followed by Ralph Brooker’s prefaces to the Second Edition of August 1952 acknowledging ‘At all stages in the preparation of this edition Dr A.M. Turing offered valuable criticism and advice’ followed by his ‘Preface to the Third Edition’ (dated to September 1953) which credits ‘suggestions contained in the following pages’ to ‘R.K. Livesley, A.M. Turing, A.E. Glennie, and C. Strachey.’

The text is is printed on both sides of the paper and comprises 6pp preliminaries; 2 page ‘List of Contents’ for the 8 chapter structure and Appendix followed by 3 unlisted sections of dated errata whose insertion show the actual completion of this iteration of the third edition cannot be before March 1955: 1. Logical Design pp30; 2. Coding Examples pp16; 3. Programming pp16; 4. The Input Organisation, pp16; 5. The Library Routines, pp26; 6. Floating Operations, pp22; 7. Programming a Complex Problem, pp28; 8. Practical Details, pp10; Appendix, pp10; 2 inserted sheets; Errata and Addenda pp8 dated to 29th April 1954, 1st March 1955 and 18th October 1954 (bound out of sequence). A very rare item: OCLC locates 1 copy in Canada and Copac/ JISC finds 1 in Manchester at the John Rylands. The historian of Manchester computing Simon Lavington suggests that ‘Several tens of these manuals were printed.’ Ben Weinreb’s copy of the Programmers’ Manual, 1st edition, sold for £12,000 at Bloomsbury Auctions in October 1999.

Turing’s Programmers’ Handbook was one of his most sustained pieces of writing, emerging from his work alongside Max Newman at the Manchester University Computing Laboratory during the period after the pair left Bletchley Park. Turing joined the laboratory in 1948 where he was in charge of what would come to be called system programming for the Manchester Electronic Computer Mark II also known as the Ferranti Mark 1 Among its many firsts this programming manual allowed the creation of the first ever computer-generated music by Turing's friend Christopher Strachey. The first edition of 1951 was entirely Turing’s work with subsequent revision by his colleague Brooker in the two known successive editions. Turing is increasingly regarded as one of the most significant figures in the twentieth century history of computing.


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Added under Book
Date published 1953
Subject 1 Book
Product code 7927


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