May 12th, 1941 – The First Computer!

Today-In-History

On May 12th, 1941, Konrad Zuse presented the Z3, the world’s first working programmable, fully automatic computer, in Berlin.

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Zuse Z3 replica on display at Deutsches Museum in Munich

The Z3 was an electromechanical computer designed by Konrad Zuse. It was the world’s first working programmable, fully automatic digital computer. The Z3 was built with 2000 relays, implementing a 22-bit word length that operated at a clock frequency of about 5–10 Hz. Program code and data were stored on punched film.

The Z3 was completed in Berlin in 1941. The German Aircraft Research Institute used it to perform statistical analyses of wing flutter. Zuse asked the German government for funding to replace the relays with fully electronic switches, but funding was denied during World War II since such development was deemed “not war-important”. The original Z3 was destroyed in 1943 during an Allied bombardment of Berlin. A fully functioning replica was built in the 1960s by Zuse’s company, Zuse KG, and is on permanent display in the Deutsches Museum. The Z3 was demonstrated in 1998 to be, in principle, Turing-complete.

Thanks to this machine and its predecessors, Konrad Zuse is often regarded as the inventor of the computer.


 

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