The Computer - My Life
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Konrad Zuse is one of the great pioneers of the computer age. He created thefirst fully automated, program controlled, freely programmable computer using binary floating-point calculation. It was operational in 1941. He built his first machines in Berlin during the Second World War, with bombs falling all around, and after the war he built up a company that was taken over by Siemens in 1967. Zuse was an inventor in the traditional style, full of phantastic ideas, but also gifted with a powerful analytical mind. Single-handedly, he developed one of the first programming languages, the Plan Calculus, including features copied only decades later in other languages. He wrote numerousbooks and articles and won many honors and awards. This is his autobiography, written in an engagingly lively and pleasant style, full of anecdotes, reminiscences, and philosophical asides. It traces his life from his childhood in East Prussia, through tense wartime experiences and hard times building up his business after the war, to a ripe old age andwell-earned celebrity.
for instance, his mandarin machine whi ch took money and gave mandarins, and some times ind eed returned th e money with th e goods. One day, shortly after he had received his degree and had been working as a structural enginee r for a few months, he explained to us, a few of his pals, tha t he was planning to build a universal com puting machine . H e wa s looking for helpers. I had just com pleted my qu alifying exa m to becom e a mi ning enginee r; I was 20 years old . I agreed . In th e
ou t by spec ia l commando s from th e concentra tion ca m ps, wh o wer e reli eved eve ry fifteen minutes a nd who othe rwise had relatively good lives. Then th e bomb dispo sal sq ua d officer had to clim b down , eq uip ped with a necklace microphon e and tools, a nd get to wor k. He had to describe his moves, step by step, th en if the bom b sho uld exp lod e, his successo r would kn ow pr ecisely whe re his pr ed ecessor had made th e wrong mov e. So th e battle against the Briti sh inge
We had similar good contacts with Professor Willers. In the meantime our European neighbors had started work on computer development, too . I have already mentioned Zurich's ERMETH. Professor Zemanek built his Mailiifterl [pleasant May breeze] in Vienna, consciously distinguishing it from the gigantic Whirlwind. The Mailufter! was one of the first transistorized computing systems in Europe. Later, Zemanek headed an IBM research laboratory in Vienna, was for a time the President of the
modern techniques of large scale integration (LSI) and micromodule technology now allow one to house computers with the power of machines like the Z22, Z23 or Z3l on a small chip. With this increased performance per unit volume, the problems of software also gained new meaning. At any rate, other paths are being chosen here. In principle, one could today produce economical and very small Z23s; yet demands have changed so dramatically, the attempt has not been made. While we are on the subject of
comme rcia l success of the ZII , Z22 and Z2 3, a nd the drawing board Z64 , was a ble to grow quickl y, perhaps too quickly for a truly healthy growth. At this tim e th e com pa ny was managed by Alarich Baeumler, Kurt Brandes a nd Dr. Rudolf Bodo. In Germany we wer e conside red to be IBM's number on e com pe titor. In many aspe cts we may even have had it easier th an our large competitor. Our ad va ntage lay in our already often cited close client relations. Now th at we had rea ched the