Williams, Sir Frederic Calland

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b. 26 June 1911 Stockport, Cheshire, England
d. 11 August 1977 Prestbury, Cheshire, England
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English electrical engineer who invented the Williams storage cathode ray tube, which was extensively used worldwide as a data memory in the first digital computers.
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Following education at Stockport Grammar School, Williams entered Manchester University in 1929, gaining his BSc in 1932 and MSc in 1933. After a short time as a college apprentice with Metropolitan Vickers, he went to Magdalen College, Oxford, to study for a DPhil, which he was awarded in 1936. He returned to Manchester University that year as an assistant lecturer, gaining his DSc in 1939. Following the outbreak of the Second World War he worked for the Scientific Civil Service, initially at the Bawdsey Research Station and then at the Telecommunications Research Establishment at Malvern, Worcestershire. There he was involved in research on non-incandescent amplifiers and diode rectifiers and the development of the first practical radar system capable of identifying friendly aircraft. Later in the war, he devised an automatic radar system suitable for use by fighter aircraft.
After the war he resumed his academic career at Manchester, becoming Professor of Electrical Engineering and Director of the University Electrotechnical Laboratory in 1946. In the same year he succeeded in developing a data-memory device based on the cathode ray tube, in which the information was stored and read by electron-beam scanning of a charge-retaining target. The Williams storage tube, as it became known, not only found obvious later use as a means of storing single-frame, still television images but proved to be a vital component of the pioneering Manchester University MkI digital computer. Because it enabled both data and program instructions to be stored in the computer, it was soon used worldwide in the development of the early stored-program computers.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Knighted 1976. OBE 1945. CBE 1961. FRS 1950. Hon. DSc Durham 1964, Sussex 1971, Wales 1971. First Royal Society of Arts Benjamin Franklin Medal 1957. City of Philadelphia John Scott Award 1960. Royal Society Hughes Medal 1963. Institution of Electrical Engineers Faraday Medal 1972. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Pioneer Award 1973.
Bibliography
Williams contributed papers to many scientific journals, including Proceedings of the Royal Society, Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Wireless Engineer, Post Office Electrical Engineers' Journal. Note especially: 1948, with J.Kilburn, "Electronic digital computers", Nature 162:487; 1949, with J.Kilburn, "A storage system for use with binary digital computing machines", Proceedings of the Institution of Electrical Engineers 96:81; 1975, "Early computers at Manchester University", Radio \& Electronic Engineer 45:327. Williams also collaborated in the writing of vols 19 and 20 of the MIT Radiation
Laboratory Series.
Further Reading
B.Randell, 1973, The Origins of Digital Computers, Berlin: Springer-Verlag. M.R.Williams, 1985, A History of Computing Technology, London: Prentice-Hall. See also: Stibitz, George R.; Strachey, Christopher.
KF

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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