A long-lost portrait of the world’s oldest working digital computer has been rediscovered on the wall of a cafe bar in Manchester.
Artist John Yeadon first saw the Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computation from Harwell (Witch) in the Museum of Science & Industry in Birmingham in 1982. The computer fascinated the artist.
Yeadon described the computer as a dusty hunk of electric and mechanical hardware that reminded him of the disturbing 1950’s Quatermass science fiction TV series, in a near-lifesize 2 by 3-metre Portrait of a Dead Witch.
Describing it as a portrait rather than a still life, Yeadon said, “I think I had some idea that the painting brought the computer back to life, or at least to another life.”
After remaining in service at Wolverhampton Technical College, the Witch was moved to the museum, where it was dismantled. Kevin Murrell, a trustee of the Bletchley Park-based National Museum of Computing, made efforts and eventually got the computer fully restored.
When Mr. Murrell learned of the portrait, he launched a national search for it. He discovered that the portrait spent years on loan to a Leicestershire school before being sold when the school became an academy. Eventually, it was bought by Kaldip Bhamber, the owner of the Jam Street Cafe Bar in Manchester.