Konrad Zuse: Wikis


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Konrad Zuse

Konrad Zuse in 1992
Born 22 June 1910(1910-06-22)
Berlin, German Empire
Died 18 December 1995 (aged 85)
Hünfeld, Germany
Residence Germany
Fields Computer science
Institutions Aerodynamic Research Institute
Alma mater Technical University of Berlin
Known for Z3
Calculating Space (cf. digital physics)
Notable awards Werner-von-Siemens-Ring in 1964,
Harry H. Goode Memorial Award in 1965 (together with George Stibitz),
Great Cross of Merit in 1972
Computer History Museum Fellow Award in 1999 - weblink

Konrad Zuse (pronounced [ˈkɔnʁat ˈtsuːzə]; 22 June 1910 Berlin - 18 December 1995 Hünfeld) was a German engineer and computer pioneer who collaborated with the German government during World War 2, which helped finance his projects. His greatest achievement was the world's first functional program-controlled Turing-complete computer, the Z3, in 1941 (the program was stored on a punched tape). He received the Werner-von-Siemens-Ring in 1964 for the Z3.[1] His S2 computing machine is considered the first process-controlled computer, which was used to help develop the Henschel Werke HS-293 and HS-294, which were precursors to the modern cruise missile. It is also considered one of the first analog-to-digital converters.

Zuse also designed the first high-level programming language, Plankalkül, first published in 1948, although this was a theoretical contribution, since the language was not implemented in his lifetime and did not directly influence early languages. One of the inventors of ALGOL (Rutishauser) wrote: "The very first attempt to devise an algorithmic language was undertaken in 1948 by K. Zuse. His notation was quite general, but the proposal never attained the consideration it deserved."

In addition to his technical work, Zuse founded one of the earliest computer businesses in 1946. This company built the Z4, which became the second commercial computer leased to ETH Zürich in 1950. Due to World War II, however, Zuse's work went largely unnoticed in the UK and the U.S.; possibly his first documented influence on a U.S. company was IBM's option on his patents in 1946. In the late 1960s, Zuse suggested the concept of a Calculating Space (a computation-based universe).

There is a replica of the Z3, as well as the Z4, in the Deutsches Museum in Munich.

The Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin in Berlin has an exhibition devoted to Zuse, displaying twelve of his machines, including a replica of the Z1, some original documents, including the specifications of Plankalkül, and several of Zuse's paintings.


Pre-WWII work and the Z1

Zuse Z1 replica in the German Museum of Technology in Berlin

Born in Berlin, Germany in 1910, his parents moved to Braunsberg, East Prussia in 1912, where his father worked as a postal clerk. Zuse visited the Collegium Hosianum in Braunsberg and after his family moved to Hoyerswerda, he passed his Abitur in 1928. Zuse graduated in civil engineering from the Technische Hochschule Berlin-Charlottenburg in 1935. In his engineering studies, Zuse had to perform many routine calculations by hand, which he found mind-numbingly boring. This led him to dream about performing calculations by machine.

He started as a design engineer at the Henschel aircraft factory in Berlin-Schönefeld but resigned a year later to build a program driven/programmable machine.

Working in his parents' apartment in 1936, his first attempt, called the Z1, was a binary electrically driven mechanical calculator with limited programmability, reading instructions from a punched tape. In 1937 Zuse submitted two patents that anticipated a von Neumann architecture. He finished the Z1 in 1938. The Z1 never worked well, though, due to the lack of sufficiently precise mechanical parts. The Z1 and its original blueprints were destroyed during World War II.

Between 1987 and 1989, Zuse recreated the Z1, suffering a heart-attack midway through the project. It had 30,000 components, cost 800,000 DM, and required four individuals (including Zuse) to assemble it. Funding for this retrocomputing project was provided by Siemens and a consortium of five companies.

The Z2, Z3, and Z4

Statue of Zuse in Bad Hersfeld

Zuse's work was completed independent from other leading computer scientists and mathematicians of his day, including John Eckert, Howard Aiken, and John William Mauchley. Between 1936-1945, he was in near total intellectual isolation.[2] In 1939, Zuse was called for military service, where he was given the resources to ultimately build the Z2.[3] Zuse built the Z2, a revised version of the Z1, from telephone relays. The same year, he started a company, Zuse Apparatebau (Zuse Apparatus Engineering), to manufacture his machines.

Improving on the basic Z2 machine, he built the Z3 in 1941, which was a highly secretive project of the German goverment.[4] It was a binary 22-bit floating point calculator featuring programmability with loops but without conditional jumps, with memory and a calculation unit based on telephone relays. The telephone relays used in his machines were largely collected from discarded stock. Despite the absence of conditional jumps, the Z3 was a Turing complete computer (ignoring the fact that no physical computer can be truly Turing complete because of limited storage size). However, Turing-completeness was never considered by Zuse (who had practical applications in mind) and only demonstrated in 1998 (see History of computing hardware).

The Z3, the first fully operational electro-mechanical computer, was partially financed by German government-supported DVL (Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt, i.e. German Experimentation-Institution for Aviation), which wanted their extensive calculations automated. A request by his co-worker Helmut Schreyer, who helped Zuse build the Z3 prototype in 1938,[5] for government funding for an electronic successor to the Z3 was denied as "strategically unimportant". In 1937 Schreyer had advised Zuse to use vacuum tubes as switching elements, who at this time considered it a crazy idea ("Schnapsidee" in his own words). Zuse's company (with the Z3) was destroyed in 1945 by an Allied attack.

Fortunately, the partially finished, relay-based Z4, which Zuse had began constructing in 1942,[6] had been moved to a safe place earlier.


Zuse designed the first high-level programming language, Plankalkül, from 1941 to 1945, although he did not publish it in its entirety until 1972. No compiler or interpreter was available for Plankalkül until a team from the Free University of Berlin implemented it in 2000.

S1 and S2

In 1940, the German government began funding him through the Aerodynamische Versuchsanstalt (AVA, Aerodynamic Research Institute),[7] which used his work for the production of glide bombs. Zuse built the S1 and S2 computing machines, which were special purpose devices which computed aerodynamic corrections to the wings of radio-controlled flying bombs. The S2 featured an integrated analog-to-digital converter under program control, making it the first process-controlled computer.[6]

These machines contributed to the Henschel Werke HS-293 and HS-294 developed by the German military between 1941-1945, which were the precursor to the modern cruise missile.[8][6][9] The circuit design of the S1 was the predecessor of Zuse's Z11.[6]

Zuse suspected that these machines had fallen into the hands of the Soviets by 1945.[6]

Marriage and family

Konrad Zuse married Gisela Brandes in January 1945 - employing a carriage, himself dressed in tailcoat and top hat and with Gisela in wedding veil, for Zuse attached importance to a noble ceremony. Their son Horst was born in November 1945.

Zuse the entrepreneur

Inside of a Z31 (which was first displayed in 1963).

In 1946 Zuse founded one of the earliest computer companies: the Zuse-Ingenieurbüro Hopferau. Capital was raised through ETH Zürich and an IBM option on Zuse's patents.

Zuse founded another company, Zuse KG, in 1949. The Z4 was finished and delivered to the ETH Zürich, Switzerland in September 1950. At that time, it was the only working computer in continental Europe, and the second computer in the world to be sold, only beaten by the BINAC. Other computers, all numbered with a leading Z, up to Z43[10], were built by Zuse and his company. Notable are the Z11, which was sold to the optics industry and to universities, and the Z22, the first computer with a memory based on magnetic storage.[11]

By 1967, the Zuse KG had built a total of 251 computers. Due to financial problems, it was then sold to Siemens.

Calculating Space

In 1967 Zuse also suggested that the universe itself is running on a grid of computers (digital physics); in 1969 he published the book Rechnender Raum (translated into English as Calculating Space). This idea has attracted a lot of attention, since there is no physical evidence against Zuse's thesis. Edward Fredkin (1980s), Juergen Schmidhuber (1990s), Stephen Wolfram (A New Kind of Science) and others have expanded on it.

Zuse received several awards for his work. After he retired, he focused on his hobby, painting. Zuse died on 18 December 1995 in Hünfeld, Germany, near Fulda.



  • "The belief in a certain idea gives to the researcher the support for his work. Without this belief he would be lost in a sea of doubts and insufficiently verified proofs."[12]
  • "The rattling of the Z4 is the only interesting thing about the Zürich nightlife."[13]


  • Jürgen Alex, Hermann Flessner, Wilhelm Mons, Horst Zuse: Konrad Zuse: Der Vater des Computers. Parzeller, Fulda 2000, ISBN 3-7900-0317-4
  • Raul Rojas (Hrsg.): Die Rechenmaschinen von Konrad Zuse. Springer, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-540-63461-4.
  • Jürgen Alex: Wege und Irrwege des Konrad Zuse. In: Spektrum der Wissenschaft (dt. Ausgabe von Scientific American) 1/1997, ISSN 0170-2971.
  • Hadwig Dorsch: Der erste Computer. Konrad Zuses Z1 - Berlin 1936. Beginn und Entwicklung einer technischen Revolution. Mit Beiträgen von Konrad Zuse und Otto Lührs. Museum für Verkehr und Technik, Berlin 1989.
  • Clemens Kieser: „Ich bin zu faul zum Rechnen“ - Konrad Zuses Computer Z22 im Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe. In: Denkmalpflege in Baden-Württemberg, 4/34/2005, Esslingen am Neckar, S. 180-184, ISSN 0342-0027.
  • Arno Peters: Was ist und wie verwirklicht sich Computer-Sozialismus: Gespräche mit Konrad Zuse. Verlag Neues Leben, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-355-01510-5.
  • Paul Janositz: Informatik und Konrad Zuse: Der Pionier des Computerbaus in Europa – Das verkannte Genie aus Adlershof. In: Der Tagesspiegel Nr. 19127, Berlin, 9. März 2006, Beilage Seite B3.
  • Jürgen Alex: Zum Einfluß elementarer Sätze der mathematischen Logik bei Alfred Tarski auf die drei Computerkonzepte des Konrad Zuse. TU Chemnitz 2006.
  • Jürgen Alex: Zur Entstehung des Computers - von Alfred Tarski zu Konrad Zuse. VDI-Verlag, Düsseldorf 2007, ISBN 978-3-18-150051-4, ISSN 0082-2361.

See also


  1. ^ Konrad Zuse: Biography
  2. ^ "Konrad Zuse", Gap System. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  3. ^ "Weapons Grade: How Modern Warfare Gave Birth To Our High-Tech World", David Hambling. Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2006. ISBN 0786717696, 9780786717699. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  4. ^ "New perspectives, computer concepts", June Jamrich Parsons, Dan Oja. Cengage Learning, 2007. ISBN 1423906101, 9781423906100. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  5. ^ "Handbook of research on open source software", Kirk St. Amant, Brian Still. Idea Group Inc (IGI), 2007. ISBN 1591409993, 9781591409991. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d e "My computer, my life", Konrad Zuse. Springer, 1993. ISBN 3540564535, 9783540564539. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  7. ^ "Mathematicians during the Third Reich and World War II", Technische Universität München. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  8. ^ "Germany's Secret Weapons in World War II", Roger Ford. Zenith Imprint, 2000. ISBN 0760308470, 9780760308479. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  9. ^ "The S1 and S2 Computing Machines — Konrad Zuse´s Work for the German Military 1941–1945", Atypon Link. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  10. ^ Z43
  11. ^ Biography of Konrad Zuse, by Prof. Horst Zuse - epemag.com
  12. ^ http://www.dpma.de/ponline/erfindergalerie/bio_zuse.html
  13. ^ https://www-927.ibm.com/ibm/cas/hspc/histProfiles.shtml#Zuse
  • Zuse, Konrad (1993). The Computer – My Life. Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 0-387-56453-5. (translated from the original German edition (1984): Der Computer – Mein Lebenswerk. Springer. ISBN 3-540-56292-3.)
  • Zuse, Konrad (1969). Rechnender Raum Braunschweig: Vieweg & Sohn. ISBN 3-528-09609-8
  • Rechnender Raum (PDF document), Elektronische Datenverarbeitung, 8: 336–344, 1967.
  • Calculating Space English translation as PDF document

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Konrad Zuse (June 22, 1910December 18, 1995) was a German engineer and computer pioneer, noted for implementing the world's first programmable Turing-complete computer, the Z3, in 1941.


  • Bisher war der Bürger durch die Trägheit der Bürokratie vor vielen Übergriffen des Bürokratismus geschützt. Jetzt kommt der Computer und macht das alles in Millisekunden, […]
    • Translation: Until now, citizens were protected from many incursions of bureaucracy because of its sluggishness. Now there's computers that do it all in milliseconds, […]
    • www.kalenderblatt.de
  • Die Gefahr, dass der Computer so wird wie der Mensch, ist nicht so groß wie die Gefahr, dass der Mensch so wird wie der Computer.
    • Translation: The danger of computers becoming like humans is not as great as the danger of humans becoming like computers.
    • Hersfelder Zeitung Nr. 212, 12. September 2005

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