Konrad Zuse in Berlin

The Free University was founded in 1948 in what was then the American Sector of Berlin. The reason was that the venerable Humboldt University happened to be in the Soviet Sector, and had been taken over by the Soviet military government. Non-communist students had trouble even enrolling there, much less studying anything that did not conform to the party line.

My first photo shows the Mathematics Building of the Free University with — you guessed it — the value of pi aka π (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter) to an accuracy of however many decimal places they could fit on the three sides of the building that are visible. In high school we used to be satisfied with 3.1416, which was already more than our slide rules could handle. By the way, in Germany a decimal point is a comma and a comma is a period (“full stop” to you). That’s why there is a comma after the 3 in the value of π.

(See also: the π room at the Palace of Discovery in Paris.)

Signpost on the Free University campus in Berlin

Library of the Konrad-Zuse-Zentrum

The Zuse Institute Berlin (abbreviated ZIB) is a research institute for applied mathematics and computer science on the campus of the Free University. It was named after the inventor and entrepreneur Konrad Zuse (1910-1995), who developed four prototype computers in the years 1935 to 1945. He later founded a company, the Zuse KG, which built 251 mainframe computers between 1949 and 1967.

Text panel on the wall of the Konrad-Zuse-Zentrum

This text panel explains one component of Zuse’s Z3 computer, which he first demonstrated to a small group of colleagues on May 12, 1941. The Z3 is said to be the world’s first programmable computer. It could do basic arithmetic calculations in any order, and had enough memory for 64 numbers. The Z3 was also the first machine that could do floating decimal calculations.

Address of the Zuse Institute Berlin (ZIB): Takustraße 7, 14195 Berlin, Germany

German Technical Museum Berlin

An old steam locomotive at the German Technical Museum Berlin

This museum (Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin) is at the site of a former railroad freight yard. It incorporates two roundhouses and turntables that were formerly used for steam locomotives.

Historical bicycles at the German Technical Museum Berlin

In addition to locomotives and bicycles, there is also an exhibit of early computers by the inventor Konrad Zuse (1910-1995), including a full-scale replica of his first computer, the Z1, which he built in 1938. The original Z1 was destroyed by bombings in the Second World War, but a replica was later built from the original plans under Zuse’s direction.

One of Konrad Zuse’s Z23 computers

Developed starting in 1958, the first Z23 mainframe computer was delivered in 1961. Unlike the Z22, which relied entirely on vacuum tubes, the Z23 incorporated 2700 transistors. Between 1961 and 1967, Zuse’s company built and sold 98 of these Z23 computers. (More information here.)

Two of Zuse’s paintings

Konrad Zuse was also a painter. Here two of his paintings are on display at the German Technical Museum Berlin (Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin, Trebbiner Str. 9, 10963 Berlin-Kreuzberg).

My photos in this post are from 2005. I revised the text in 2018.

See more posts on the inventor and entrepreneur Konrad Zuse (1910-1995).

1 thought on “Konrad Zuse in Berlin”

  1. Interesting to see the technical part of this innovated product as computers. They were my first window into the world with my job back in 1988, my boss was from Hamburg but inc in USA.

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