Who was the first computer scientist

History of the computer : Who invented it?

Konrad who? In the Anglo-Saxon countries is the name of the German computer pioneer Konrad Zuse (1910 - 1995, picture left) largely unknown. While Zuse is celebrated in this country as the inventor of the modern calculating machine, as it were as Bill Gates of the Computer Stone Age, American technology historians often consider him worth a footnote. The reason for this is that Zuse tinkered around in isolation in National Socialist Germany.

While researchers and engineers at universities in the USA and England pondered the construction of computing machines in large numbers and with plenty of support, the prevented painter Zuse screwed together his first machine, the Z1, from sheet metal strips and steel cylinders in his parents' living room in Berlin-Kreuzberg . The reason for his stroke of genius was comfort. The civil engineering student Zuse wanted to build a machine that did static calculations for him.

The Z1, the first fully mechanical calculating machine, fell victim to the hail of bombs on Berlin, as did the successor model Z3, which was completed in 1941, the first functioning program-controlled computer. Zuse was born at the right time but in the wrong place. The idea of ​​the computer was in the air, its masterminds and inventors sat in the USA, Great Britain and Germany. After 1945 the USA became the center of the emerging computer culture.

The English mathematician did crucial preparatory work Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871, picture on the right). In 1832 he built the prototype of a gear calculating machine called the "Difference Engine". The successor model "Analytical Engine" should even be completely automatic and programmable. The "Analytical Engine" anticipated the modern computer. There was a processor that calculated (“mill”) and a working memory (“load”). Entries were made with punch cards. The room-filling Victorian monster had only one flaw: it was never built. It wasn't until 100 years after Babbage's death that scientists bent over thousands of pages of construction drawings. The analytical engine is a computer from another planet, noted one of the researchers.

After Babbage, the idea of ​​a digital machine remained quiet until the 1930s. Then the revolution began. In Germany with Zuse and in America with the physicists George Stibitz and Howard Aiken. Stibitz, who worked at the Bell Laboratories, called his first computer, completed in 1937, "Model K". The "K" stood for the kitchen table on which Stibitz installed the machine. At Harvard University, Aiken was bothered with complicated equations. Like Zuse, he needed an arithmetic servant. In 1944, inspired by Charles Babbage, Aiken built an electric computer giant called "Mark I", which weighed 4.5 tons and could quickly perform complex calculations.

The proto-computers by Zuse, Stibitz and Aiken were already based on the binary number system, so they used a system of zeros and ones like modern computers. But they still worked with relays, sluggish electrical switches. Instead, the next generation of computers relied on fast electron tubes as switching elements. An essential step which, for some purists, marks the limit to the “true” electronic computer.

The first tube computer is considered to be “Colossus”, which was built in England in 1943 for the military and was based on Turing's ideas. He deciphered the German "Enigma" secret code. But with its 1500 tubes, “Colossus” was more of a dwarf compared to “Eniac”, a 30-ton giant with 17,000 tubes Presper Eckert and John Mauchly conceived by the University of Pennsylvania.

Another step was that

"Eniac" successor "Edvac", on whose development the mathematician John von Neumann played a decisive role. It marks the transition from the calculating machine to a comprehensive, information-processing machine. The size problem was then solved by the transistor developed by the Bell Laboratories in 1947. Since then, computers have been shrinking. Til today.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus for free! To home page