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Heinz Zemanek Passes At 94

samzenpus posted about two weeks ago | from the fare-thee-well dept.

IBM 52

Knuckles writes Austrian computer pioneer Heinz Zemanek, the first person to build a fully transistorized computer on the European mainland, died in Vienna, aged 94 (link in German). Officially named Binär dezimaler Volltransistor-Rechenautomat (binary-decimal fully transistorized computing automaton), but known as "Mailüfterl", the computer was built in 1955 and in 1958 calculated 5073548261 to be a prime number in 66 minutes. Its power was comparable to a small tube computer of the time, and it measured 4 by 2.5 by 0.5 meters. "Mailüfterl" means "may breeze" in Viennese German and was a play on US computers of the time, like MIT's Whirlwind. 'Even if it cannot match the rapid calculation speed of American models called "Whirlwind" or "Typhoon", it will be enough for a "Wiener Mailüfterl"' (Viennese may breeze), said Zemanek. Mailüfterl contained 3,000 transistors, 5,000 diodes, 1,000 assembly platelets, 100,000 solder joints, 15,000 resistors, 5,000 capacitors and 20,000 meters switching wire. It was built as an underground project at and without financial support from the technical university of Vienna, were Zemanek was an assistant professor at the time. In 1961, Zemanek and his team moved to IBM, who built them their own lab in Vienna. In 1976, Zemanek became an IBM Fellow and stayed at IBM until his retirement in 1985. He was crucial in the creation of the formal definition of the programming language PL/I. The definition language used was VDL (Vienna Definition Language), a direct predecessor of VDM Specification Language (VDM-SL). He remained a professor in Vienna and held regular lectures until 2006.

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52 comments

Heinz der man! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47480623)

He be der man if ever der was ders man he was das.

Re:Heinz der man! (3, Funny)

jean-guy69 (445459) | about two weeks ago | (#47480655)

Veuillez poster en anglais, s'il vous plait.

Re:Heinz der man! (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | about two weeks ago | (#47480813)

Not sure if if whoosh or troll.

Re:Heinz der man! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47480921)

Mama Mia! Whata do-ya thinka?

He was-a try'in-a to maka pointa!

Re:Heinz der man! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47480979)

Troll.Whoosh goes for you.

It's "May breeze," not "may breeze" (4, Informative)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about two weeks ago | (#47480641)

"Mailüfterl" means "may breeze"

No it doesn't - it means "May breeze," as in the month, not as in the possibility.

Viennese may breeze

Are people from Vienna particular aloof?

A German wouldn't have made this mistake!

Re:It's "May breeze," not "may breeze" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47480903)

Germans made mistakes. The two big ones were, WWI and WWII. Now does that make you feel fine?

Re:It's "May breeze," not "may breeze" (3, Interesting)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about two weeks ago | (#47480987)

A French would possibly have got it right but still written in that wrong and confusing way. We don't capitalize month names. Now I know why it's done in English.

Re:It's "May breeze," not "may breeze" (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about two weeks ago | (#47481963)

Proper capitalization is important. Else people might look funny at you if you say "I had to help my uncle Jack off his horse".

Re:It's "May breeze," not "may breeze" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47483077)

There has some other reason why the French would not capitalization the "J".

Re:It's "May breeze," not "may breeze" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47483685)

And now tell me, please, how exactly "uncle jack" and "uncle Jack" differ in *spoken language*.

Proper capitalization might be important, but surely not more so than using proper vocabulary...

Re:It's "May breeze," not "may breeze" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47481085)

This. I was trying to make sense of that sentence until I realized they fucked up the capitals.

Re:It's "May breeze," not "may breeze" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47481349)

Few (if any) european languages capitalize month names except when they start sentences. On the other hand, in German all nouns are capitalized. Every single one.

Re:It's "May breeze," not "may breeze" (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about two weeks ago | (#47481387)

A German wouldn't have made this mistake!

...and lived.

Re:It's "May breeze," not "may breeze" (1)

Knuckles (8964) | about two weeks ago | (#47484515)

Not a German but maybe an Austrian ;) Sorry for the typo, you may have noticed that I tried to take quite some care with TFA, it slipped through.

America invented computers! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47480679)

Thank US, Europan pussies.

Re:America invented computers! (2)

mailuefterl (140499) | about two weeks ago | (#47480721)

Depends on how you define computer!
Just look up Charles Babbage or Konrad Zuse.

Re:America invented computers! (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about two weeks ago | (#47480983)

+1 for Konrad Zuse and his work on a high-level programming language and the design ability to read instructions from used perforated 35 mm film.
Konrad Zuse http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K... [wikipedia.org]

Re:America invented computers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47480797)

I for one welcome our new feline overlords from the Jovian moon of Europa.

"Passed" (1)

waimate (147056) | about two weeks ago | (#47480733)

Passed what? A kidney stone? Another car?

Oh, you mean "died". I get it now.

Re:"Passed" (1)

jandersen (462034) | about two weeks ago | (#47480953)

Passed what? A kidney stone? Another car?

I think the clue is in the name: Mailüfterl: May breeze.

Re:"Passed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47481151)

I think they meant that he passed someone on the interstate at 94 mph.

Re:"Passed" (1)

rossdee (243626) | about two weeks ago | (#47481959)

"he passed someone on the interstate at 94 mph."

Thats called tthe autobahn over there, and at 150km/hr everyone else passes YOU

Re: passed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47482617)

This headline confused me, because I'd read elsewhere that he died.

So was he [sur] passed before or after he died?

Re:"Passed" (1)

Knuckles (8964) | about two weeks ago | (#47484531)

After gettin the flack for the may/May typo already, the headline was edited by the editor and was not my fault. Mine had sucked as well though

Farewell (1)

SolennJames (3751451) | about two weeks ago | (#47480881)

Requiescat in pace.

Best Computer name ever (2, Insightful)

Qbertino (265505) | about two weeks ago | (#47481009)

I've never heard of this guy, but calling your Computer "Mailüfterl" in contrast to other ones named "Wirlwind" definitely gives him instant credit with me. Must have been a fun guy to be lectured by. ... Seriously, this may actually be the very first non-gigantomaniac humourous computer name in history.

Re:Best Computer name ever (2)

mailuefterl (140499) | about two weeks ago | (#47481177)

Actually his lectures at the Vienna Univiersity of technology are legendary.
Mailüfterl versus Whirlwind is a very austrian thing.

Re:Best Computer name ever (1)

Knuckles (8964) | about two weeks ago | (#47484553)

Now I envy your nick. And yeah, so Austrian it makes me a little homesick.

Re:Best Computer name ever (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about two weeks ago | (#47482453)

A few years later you had the Programma 101 also known as Perottina http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]

Father of Computer Puns? (1)

tgeek (941867) | about two weeks ago | (#47481043)

Maybe that's his greatest contribution. Possibly he's what inspired the Unix name to be a play on Multics, C to be a play on BPL, and the literally uncountable other successor puns (in the *nix-verse alone!)?

Re:Father of Computer Puns? (0)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about two weeks ago | (#47481223)

Maybe that's his greatest contribution. Possibly he's what inspired the Unix name to be a play on Multics, C to be a play on BPL, and the literally uncountable other successor puns (in the *nix-verse alone!)?

And that's why Unix isn't considered to be a serious OS, the way Windows is.

Re:Father of Computer Puns? (1)

Knuckles (8964) | about two weeks ago | (#47484617)

Interesting, thanks. I would guess that it's a nerd thing and probably there were earlier cases, but now I am intrigued.

Someone tell him to slow down! (3, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about two weeks ago | (#47481117)

Heinz Zemanek Passes At 94

Do they Autobahns in Austria, then? Cos over here that kind of thing will get you a ticket.

Re:Someone tell him to slow down! (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about two weeks ago | (#47481125)

Bah. Do they have Autobahns, etc.

Re:Someone tell him to slow down! (3, Informative)

pjt33 (739471) | about two weeks ago | (#47481137)

Austria is metric, so it's only 60mph.

Re:Someone tell him to slow down! (1)

mailuefterl (140499) | about two weeks ago | (#47481181)

At 94 km/h you are considered a traffic obstacle on an austrian Autobahn.
At 94mp/h you are considered a rowdy and a madman ;-)

Re:Someone tell him to slow down! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47481335)

...yes, the imperial units tend to do that to people.

Re:Someone tell him to slow down! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47482353)

you mean, they drive evryone mad? ;-)

Re:Someone tell him to slow down! (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about two weeks ago | (#47482017)

Certainly not in Austria. It ain't as crazy as in Germany, but the Austrian drivers are not that much less speedy, despite suffering from a speed limit of just 130km/h on highways.

Re:Someone tell him to slow down! (1)

Knuckles (8964) | about two weeks ago | (#47484573)

Yes they do, but the headline was rewritten by the /. editor, it was not mine. I do think he improved on mine though.

Pass is a dumbass way to say he DIED (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47481173)

What did he pass? A kidney stone?

Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47481281)

The important takeaway from this article is that, as long as you keep on working and are passionate, age means little. There's a bunch of computer guys that code til' they drop.

Like the Model-View-Controller inventor who at 84 is hacking away every day at his new projects: http://heim.ifi.uio.no/~trygver/

And the funny thing is, he's doing his best work ever.

RIP (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about two weeks ago | (#47481609)

Your condiments will be missed.

Sauce? Beans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47482025)

So nothing to do with Heinz beans?

Re:Sauce? Beans? (1)

h5inz (1284916) | about two weeks ago | (#47482949)

Ketchup, you insensitive clod!

Not really possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47482511)

I don't know why people keep pretending that we had computers back then when clearly we only have computers because of space.

I mean steam engines were the result of human ingenuity and tinkering. So were internal combustion engines. And the vacuum tube. And the transistor.

But computers? Those needed space.

Typical German speaker (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about two weeks ago | (#47482827)

Why use three syllables when 35 will do.

Re:Typical German speaker (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47483205)

WTF are you rambling about?

Mai-lüf-terl. Exactly three syllables...

Re:Typical German speaker (1)

Knuckles (8964) | about two weeks ago | (#47484625)

WTF are you rambling about?

Mai-lüf-terl. Exactly three syllables...

Maybe he referred to the official "Binär dezimaler Volltransistor-Rechenautomat" which does sound as if Hitler had moved to a career in CS

Awesome! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47483087)

I bet when he was working on his computer he wondered if the world would ever ketchup.

Great man (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47484283)

He was a great man and a good researcher. Had the pleasure to attend some of his courses. He also wrote a good book about calendar sciences.

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