CSIRAC (1949) First Australian Computer

The CSIRAC was Australia's first computer.

The name stands for CSIR originally stood for "Council for Scientific and Industrial Research". This name was in effect from 1926 to 1949. The organization then became CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.


For more information, see the book "Last of the First. CSIRAC: Australia's First Computer." Available from: The University of Melbourne, Department of Computer Science & Software Engineering, Parkville Victoria 3010 Australia, www.cs.mu.oz.au
Cost is Aust$32.90 plus, postage Aust $12.50.

Photo Courtesy of Paul Dornbusch

In 1947, Maston Beard and Trevor Pearcey led a research group at the CSIR (CSIRO as we know it today) Radiophysics Laboratory in Sydney, Australia, to design and build an electronic computer.

Available technology at the time included the vacuum tube or "valve" technology and the pulse techniques developed for radar systems during World War II. This work in Australia paralleled, but was to a considerable extent independent of computer developments in Europe and the USA.

The CSIR Mk1 ran its first test programs in late 1949. The CSIR it was the fifth electronic stored program computer ever developed. It embodied many features novel at the time and was able to operate more than 1000 times faster than the best mechanical calculators. The machine was officially opened in 1951 and used to solve problems both for the Radiophysics Laboratory and outside organisations. The CSIR Mk 1 was decommissioned in 1955 and shipped to Melbourne.

On 14 June 1956 the Mk1 was recommissioned and renamed CSIRAC and the new Computation Laboratory at the University of Melbourne was officially opened. It was in Melbourne that CSIRAC came into its own as a general computing workhorse - from June 1956 to June 1964 over 700 computing projects were processed.

On its retirement in June 1964 CSIRAC was donated to the Museum of Victoria. Information courtesy of CSIRO

Photo courtesy of © CSIRO


This photo shows the CSIRAC console switch panel. Note the multiple rows of 20 switches used to set bits in various registers

© University of Melbourne CSIRAC archive

An end view of the mercury delay line temperature controlled cabinet "the coffin". Circa 1956

© University of Melbourne CSIRAC archive

CSIRAC magnetic disc "drum". An early photo circa 1956.
© University of Melbourne CSIRAC archive



CISRAC 1949 Specifications

CSIRAC - 1949



Word size

20 bit


768 words

Disk capacity

2048 words

Power consuption

30,000 watts


7,000 Kg


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