Heinz Zemanek (1920)


Early computers were built on vacuum tubes and were large and heavy machines which were given colorful names like ‘typhoon’ or ‘whirlwind’. Heinz Zemanek was an Austrian pioneer from Vienna which impacted the world of computing by creating what he called “Mailüfterl” (spring breeze). Mailüfterl was one of the first full-transistor calculators.

“Maybe it won’t achieve the rapid computational speed of American models, like ‘whirlwind’ or ‘typhoon’, but it should be enough for a Viennese, ‘Mailüfterl’.”, Zemanek said. The official name was a more sober “Binär dezimaler Volltransistor-Rechenautomat” (binary decimal full-transistor calculator).

It consited of 3000 transistors and 5000 diodes. While it was a big challenge to organize the components he managed to convince Phillips in Holland to donate them for his project.

Fun facts:

  • Mailüfterl was the first transistored computer of continental Europe (“Machaster Baby” was the first in the world)
  • While Zemanek was already an assitant at the technical university of Vienna, the chair for computer science wasn’t taken. So technically speaking he was also in charge of the faculty. “I didn’t have to report or answer to anyone and so took the liberty to just build this computer. And nobody stopped me.”, Zemanek said.

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