German engineer Konrad Zuse unveils the Z3, now generally recognized as the first fully functional, programmable computer.
Because Zuse designed and built his computer
inside Nazi Germany, which was already at war, his achievement went unnoticed outside Germany until after the Third Reich's collapse. In the meantime, the Harvard Mark 1
, a computer produced by an American team, appeared in 1944 and is still occasionally cited as the first of its kind.
Complicating Zuse's claim of priority, an air raid destroyed his computer, as well as all accompanying photographs and documentation. Zuse rebuilt the Z3 15 years after the war ended, to demonstrate its capabilities and to establish his claim to the patents associated with the machine.
The Z3, Zuse's third computer in a series of four, used the simple binary system for performing complicated mathematical computations -- its outstanding feature.
Zuse is also remembered for devising Plankalkül (calculation plan), an early programming language designed, although never implemented, for engineering purposes. Additionally, he's credited with founding the world's first computer startup company, Zuse-Ingenieurbüro Hopferau, or Zuse Engineering Office of Hopferau (Bavaria), in 1946.
Zuse's achievement, according to his son, was even more remarkable considering he worked independently, even in isolation, and remained unaware of contemporary developments in computer science. And unlike computer pioneers in the Allied countries, Zuse received precious little support from his government. The Nazis saw little military value in his computers and provided only very minimal funding.
Years later, Zuse was generously funded by Siemens and some other German companies when he rebuilt his Z1 computer as part of a retro computing project.
A replica of the Z3 (and the Z4) is on display at the Deutsches Museum
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