He was the first director of the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, during the development of the EDSAC, one of the first digital computers, and arguably the first to internally store its program - the von Neumann architecture. In 1955, he developed the concept of microprogramming - the realization that the Central Processing Unit of a computer could be controlled by a miniature, highly specialised computer program in high-speed ROM. This concept greatly simplified CPU development. This concept was implemented in EDSAC II, which also used multiple identical "bit slices" to simplify design.
Wilkes is also credited with the idea of symbolic labels, macros, and subroutine libraries - basic developments that made programming much easier and paved the way for high-level programming languages.
Later, Wilkes worked on an early timesharing systems (what we would now term a multi-user operating system) and distributed computing.
Wilkes received the Turing Award in 1967, with the following citation: