Konrad Zuse

27.12.2008 8:54

Yesterday I visited the Deutches Technikmuseum in Berlin. One of the many interesting things I saw there (in fact too many to see properly in a single day) was also a collection dedicated to Konrad Zuse, a German designer of one of the earliest programmable computers.

In addition to being a capable engineer, he was obviously also a capable entrepreneur and an artist. He established a successful early computer company Zuse KG, which was later taken over by Siemens.

I didn't quite got the connection between his paintings and his electronic designs the exhibition was trying to make. What I did find fascinating however is that Zuse oversaw the design and construction of computers that spanned four different technologies: from his first, groundbreaking mechanical computer, through relays and vacuum tubes to discreet transistor circuits.

Zuse Z1

This is a working replica of Z 1. It's a mechanical binary computer with some electric components. It reads the program from a punched tape, decodes the instructions and executes them using a six registers and a small amount of working memory - the architecture very similar to a modern CPU, except that the program store is separated from data store (no need for that NXE bit then) and that instead of a high speed bus for I/O you have a keyboard and a mechanical display.

The logical circuits are build on the principle of a simple mechanical logic gate, that is constructed out of thin metal sheets. This makes for a much more compact appearance than Babbage's Difference engine I saw in London, which uses columns of wheels to do it's processing.

Zuse Z 11

Z 11, using relay circuits.

Zuse Z 22

Z 22, using vacuum tubes.

Zuse Z 23

Z 23, using discreet transistor circuits.

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Digital


How does the Z1 work in detail? I am interested in rebuilding it into a compact IC.

Posted by Thomas

Add a new comment

(No HTML tags allowed. Separate paragraphs with a blank line.)