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Based on the Manchester Mark 1, the Ferranti Mark 1, whose console is pictured above, is hailed today as the first commercially available business computer, but its 1952 sales brochure says much about the importance of commercial applications in that era.
In the Ferranti 1 brochure's section on applications, after a lengthy discussion of determinants and matrices, ordinary and partial differentials, problems of logical structure, tables of Laguerre polynomials and Laguerre functions, it casually mentions that the machine can be also be used for "commercial and industrial subjects".
According to Manchester University, early programming on the Ferranti Mark 1 was "horrific by modern standards". It required programmers to work in base 32 — a five-bit group — which meant remembering the 32-letter-shift keyboard characters of a teleprinter and their five-hole equivalents. However, some who have worked that close to the machinery say it gives a unique insight into the way the computer works, and encourages efficiencies unthinkable today.
Photograph © The University of Manchester 1998, 1999