BESK

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BESK (Binär Elektronisk SekvensKalkylator, Swedish for "Binary Electronic Sequence Calculator") was Sweden's first electronic computer, using vacuum tubes instead of relays. It was developed by Matematikmaskinnämnden (Swedish Board for Computing Machinery) and during a short time it was the fastest computer in the world. The computer was completed in 1953 and in use until 1966. The technology behind BESK was later continued with the transistorized FACIT EDB and FACIT EDB-3 machines, both software compatible with BESK. Non-compatible machines highly inspired by BESK were SMIL made for the University of Lund, and DASK made in Denmark.

BESK was developed by the Swedish Board for Computing Machinery (Matematikmaskinnämnden) a few years after the mechanical relay computer BARK (Binär Aritmetisk Relä-Kalkylator, Swedish for "Binary Arithmetic Relay Calculator"). The team was initially led by Conny Palm, who died in December 1951, after which Stig Comét took over. The hardware was developed by Erik Stemme. Gösta Neovius and Olle Karlqvist were responsible for architecture and instruction set. It was closely modeled on the IAS machine for which the design team had retrieved drawings during a scholarship to Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.

One spin off effect from the BESK works is still the design of the magnetic Drum memory. At this time Olle Karlqvist discover a magnetic phenomenon, which has been called Karlqvist gap.

Contents

Performance

BESK was a 40-bit machine; it could perform an addition in 56 μs and a multiplication took 350 μs. The electrostatic memory could store 512 words. The instruction length was 20 bits, so each word could store two instructions. BESK contained 2400 "radio tubes" (vacuum tubes) and 400 germanium diodes (so it was partly solid state). The power consumption was 15 kVA.

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