BBC News: Celebrating the UK's computer pioneers
"The layman when asked about the introduction of steam power will usually reel off Newcomen, Watt and Trevithick," said Chris Burton, of the Computer Conservation Society.
"But when it comes to computer pioneers they are absolutely baffled," he said. "They have no idea." When pushed, he said, they might be able to remember the name of Alan Turing but few know of any others beyond that.
Turing established the conceptual and philosophical basis for the rise of computers in a seminal 1936 paper called "On Computable Numbers". But it took a large cast of engineers and scientists to solve the real world problems that arise when those ideas are turned into whirring, clicking reality. At Bletchley Park forerunners of modern computers were built to help the Allies crack German codes.
Interesting article about the early machines. Baking and catering company Lyons had one of the early number crunchers, Edsac, and used it for calculating what the Lyons tearoom people should be paid. The Bletchley Park website is worth a visit.