Konrad Zuse und seine ersten Computer der Welt – Fernsehbericht von 1958


Once there was a civil engineer, who – after the war – came to the village of Neustadt nearby Hünfeld. On top of these stables he conceived and built an electronic calculating machine which was then put together here, in an almost regular factory. He rented the machine to an institute in Zurich and from the earning he built a second one. When they started they were 4 people and today more than 200 employees working in the leased premises of a former textile factory in Bad Hersfeld already assemble the 18th program-controlled electronic computer, that has established itself as the first completely “Made in Germany” model surprisingly quickly on the international market. Without subsidies and assistance of any kind, based only on the diligence and the trust of its employees, Konrad Zuse built his electronic brains and was awarded for this the honorary doctorate of the Technical University of his hometown Berlin last year. Of the two devices that we manufacture today, this is the smaller one. But this device is perhaps especially interesting because we already had a precursor of this model two years in action during the war. At that time I was a student of civil engineering and I was interested in developing such devices. Also within my job in the aircraft production I was often confronted to the need to shorten extensive calculations in this way and to mechanize the calculations. So 1942 we were able to take such a device in operation, while the corresponding american devices were operational only two years later in 1944. Unfortunately the development had to be stopped because of the war, nearly all devices were destroyed, and then we succeeded to start over within the “Nord-Hessen” and the pursue the development that had been interrupted earlier during the war. This machine was originally designed for measurement tasks. However, it has shown that she also could be used on a variety of other fields of science and technology with success. A typical example of the use of the device is the land consolidation. Here you can see the cadastral map of a village before the land consolidation. The properties of the farmers are stronly fragmented due the numerous inheritances of the last centuries… The equitable distribution of the soil requires many complicated calculations. And now a colleague of Dr. Zuse is going to demonstrate such a complicated calculation process. For the performance of the calculation the program is started with the program button. Then you just have to input the values with the keyboard and then the machine, after entering the last value, provides the results by using the connected typewriter. The results from the typewriter are used by draughtsman, who draw them into maps, in order to redistribute the properties. So far, 17 of these machines are in use in different land management agencies in Germany and Austria. Other machines are used in land surveying office and in optics with success. As calculating elements we mainly used the components of the telecommunication technology. The calculations are carried out in the numerical system of the base 2. Therefore these machines don’t need the traditional elements of the calculating machine technique, e.g. number wheels and things like that. The perform the complete calculation, the relays only need to “say” yes and no. Inspired by always new requirements, we expanded the scope of the machine. Here we see the so-called band control, in which the computer programs are recorded on paper tape. Thereby it’s now possible to perform different tasks of science and technology on the machine. Here is our latest development: the calculating machine Z22. The machine has a large drum memory, which can hold about 8000 numbers or commands. It is a magnetic tape storage. All figures go through the machine as series of pulses, as you can see here on the oscilloscope. The main activity of the machine is acutally not to calculate, but to constantly transport and combine commands and numbers. All transports of numbers are passed through a switchboard, like on a railway yard. With this control panel, which you see here, you can operate the switchboard manually. In modern computing machines the switchboard is set by means of special pulse sequences, called commands. The machine is able to carry out 3.000 such commands in a second. Such series of commands are called programs. The mathematician inserts these programs into the machine and the results appear on the teleprinter in the form of long tables. Here you can see the finished plant. It is intended for Erlangen. We are currently assembling about 20 of such units, most of which will be delivered to universities and technical colleges. To convince you that our devices only good to solve serious scientific problems, my employees have prepared a little funny thing to transform numbers into letters. Electronic brains are even supposed to get “manager sick”. Countermeasure: a slight electric shock. Perhaps a short-term change to Television could also help…