Biography Of Konrad Zuse: First Computer

1024 words - 5 pages

Technology is constantly evolving. Computers, tablets, and cell phones have changed drastically over the past several years. For many years, computers were not available for personal use. Computing machines did not emerge until the 1940’s and 1950’s. Questions about the ownership of the first programmable computer are still disputed today. It appears as if each country wants to take credit for this accomplishment. Computer enthusiasts believe that Great Britain’s Colossus Mark 1 computer in 1944 was the first programmable computer and others give credit to the United States’ ENIAC computer in 1946. However, in 1941, a relatively unknown German engineer built a programmable binary computer. His name was Howard Zuse and his Z3 computer has been acknowledged as the first electromechanical binary programmable computer.
Konrad Zuse was born June 22, 1910 in Berlin-Wilmersdorf Germany. In 1927, he studied civil engineering at Technische Hochschule of Berlin and became interested in building a mechanical device for calculations. While studying construction he realized how time consuming solving linear equations was and wanted to build a computer that would solve the problems for him ("First Relay Computer," n.d.). After graduation, Zuse worked for the Henschel Aircraft Company, as a structural engineer, working daily with calculations (O’Connor & Robertson, 1999). Zuse’s concept was to build a computer that was intended for tiresome engineering calculations. He would later become known as the “father of the computer” (Rojas, 2000, p. 64). In 1934, Zuse quit his job and started working alone to build his first mechanical device in his parent’s living room and named it the Z1. The Z1 was slow and unreliable and the size of a large dining room table and weighed approximately 1,000 kg. Zuse went back to the drawing board to improve his device. Zuse wanted to build a machine that was capable of executing arithmetical operations in sequence. The Z2 computer followed but then World War II started and Zuse was drafted into the military. In the military Zuse was a simple soldier in the infantry as the German government did not see the importance of computers during wartime. Zuse proposed building a computing machine that would be able to break codes for the military but they turned him down. The German government did not want to wait a year for Zuse to finish the project thinking the war would be over in a year ("First Working Computer," 2013). It was in 1938 when Zuse began building the Z3 computer.
The Z3 computer was financed by a small government grant and finished in 1941. It was used by the German Aircraft Research Institute to carry out statistical analysis of wing flutter on aircrafts. The Z3 was described as the “first programmable calculating machine in the world” (Rojas, 1997, p. 5). It cost $6500 and used 2600 relays ("First Working Computer," 2013). There were two main ideas behind the Z3. The first was that the...

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