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THE HARWELL COMPUTER will become the oldest functioning electronic stored program device in the world if Bletchley Park boffins can raise the funds to get it fixed. The giant rack of vacuum tubes is being taken out of storage at Wolverhampton University where it has been gathering dust since 1973. The amazing thing is that, until then, the Harwell - or the WITCH (Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell) as it was known at the time - was still being used to teach computing science to students. Its new home will be at the National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) at Bletchley Park, wartime home of the Enigma Machine codebreakers. The machine was designed in 1949 and was intended to take some of the slog out of scientific calculations that previously were being done using the kind of clackety-clackety-kerchunk mechanical calculators you see in old movies. The team of human calculators involved apparently were so bored with the whole process that they were making mistakes and having to start all over again.The intention was to automate the work simply, reliably and in a way that would allow the muddled mathematicians to slope off down the pub while the machine did all the boring work. It's lucky they weren't in any kind of the rush as the machine didn't manage its first bit of number crunching until two years later in 1951.