History of Computers - Konrad Zuse

From SJS Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Page by: Wren Fondren

Konrad Zuse was an engineer and a distinguished pioneer in computer technology in Germany. His achievements range from the first working computer to the early stages of computer language to his renowned and still plausible thesis on space [1]. His inventions and ideas still show through to modern times, demonstrating his tremendous success as both an engineer and an inventor.


Konrad Zuse was born on June 22, 1910 in Berlin, Germany and died on December 18, 1995 in Hunfeld, Germany. In his early life he was an avid painter and didn't consider engineering and computer science until later in his life [2]. After switching between three studies, he finally settled on civil engineering and soon after graduated from the Technische Hochschule Berlin-Charlottenburg in 1935. He quickly received a job at Henschel Aviation Company and out of frustration with the long and complicated calculations he was having to perform, he was inspired to begin work with computers. He had no previous contact with them nor knowledge of any other achievements reached in the world of computers; he simply dove head-first into the idea of a mechanical system that would ease the work of an engineer.

Between 1935 and 1938, Zuse built his first computer, the Z1. The first working computer, it was freely programmable and ran on punch tape. However, this device was destroyed in random World War I bombings; all signs of the computer were wiped from history, but not from Zuse's mind [3]. Zuse built two more computers, Z2 and Z3, offering them to the German army who refused them and would not be convinced of their worth. As the war came to an end, Zuse fled to Zurich with his Z3 machine, where he created a fourth machine, the Z4.

Zuse_z3_1.jpg Konrad Zuse and the Z3, his 3rd working computer

In 1945, Zuse began work on the first higher level programming language, Plankalkuel. Although it was never put widely into use, the language was the first of its kind and was used by Zuse to create the first chess simulator [4]. Following this, Zuse built his final computer, the Z4, which was the first digital computer to be sold in Europe.

In 1967, Zuse published his thesis "Calculating Space," which goes into Zuse's idea of the Universe being run on a grid of computers. This theory has yet to be proven false, and offers an intriguing alternative to theories like Einstein's and other physicists [5]. Zuse received several awards for his work [6], before he retired to focus on his passion for his hobby, painting.



Konrad Zuse made his mark on world history by shaping the computer industry and accelerating it to a point beyond his time. Zuse designed and built by hand the first four working computers, as well as the second computer to be sold industriously. His innovative ideas began the technological sprint towards the computers that are used currently, and the race continues on. Zuse's computers are held and revered in museums across Europe, and his thesis for the Universe has yet to be refuted. Konrad Zuse was indeed a highly significant figure and rivals the famous geniuses of the 20th century.








  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calculating_Space calculating the Universe
  2. http://www.epemag.com/zuse/part1.htm
  3. http://ei.cs.vt.edu/~history/Zuse.html
  4. http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/zuse.html
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calculating_Space
  6. http://ei.cs.vt.edu/~history/Zuse.html

[1] Zuse's early life

[2] Zuse's Z1, Z2, Z3, and Z4

[3] Zuse timeline

[4] Calculating Space