Look ma, no transistors!

The ZKM Center for Art and Media opened in 1997 in Karlsruhe, Germany, in the center section of this former factory building.

Aside from being a museum, the ZKM includes Institutes for “Visual Media”, for “Music and Acoustics” and for “Media, Education and Economics”, which means that the whole place is full of creative-looking young people (some with babies on their arms, some without), who in large parts of the building seem to be creating things in one way or another. In short, it’s a great place to loiter around and try to figure out what is going on.

A functioning Z22 computer, serial number 13

Tucked off in an obscure corner of the ZKM is the world’s oldest still-functioning vacuum tube computer, a Zuse Z-22 with the serial number 13, meaning it was the thirteenth of fifty-five such computers that Konrad Zuse’s company built starting in 1957. Although transistors had already been invented by this time, the Z-22 does not use any, but relies solely on vacuum tubes, 415 of them to be exact. (More on Konrad Zuse coming soon, so stay tuned.)

ZKM Museum of New Art

At the northern end of the factory building there is a large Museum of New Art which says it is dedicated to showing the development of European and American Art from 1960 to the present.

When I was there, though, I didn’t see much in the way of European or American artworks. It was all squarely 21st century, and all Chinese — masses of modern artworks about the development of big Chinese cities in recent years.

Karlsruhe City Art Gallery

This large art museum is at the northern end of the factory building which also houses the ZKM Center for Art and Media, but the inner doors are locked so you have to go out and walk around to get from one to the other.

When I was there they were showing an exhibition of over 400 art works from all periods and styles, all having to do with cats. I’m sure my grandmother would have been fascinated if only she had lived to see this. (She’d be 140 years old if she were still alive.)   

My photos in this post are from 2006. I revised the text in 2017.

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