Zuse_Z1_and_Z3.pdf

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IEEE Annals of the History of Computing , Vol. 19, No. 2, 1997 5 Konrad Zuse’s Legacy: The Architecture of the Z1 and Z3 RAÚL ROJAS This paper provides a detailed description of the architecture of the Z1 and Z3 computing machines that Konrad Zuse designed in Berlin between 1936 and 1941. The necessary basic information was obtained from a careful evaluation of the patent application Zuse filed in 1941. Additional insight was gained from a software simulation of the machine’s logic. The Z1 was built using purely mechanical components; the Z3 used electromechanical relays. However, both machines shared a common logical structure, and their pro- gramming model was the same. I argue that both the Z1 and the Z3 pos- sessed features akin to those of modern computers: The memory and proc- essor were separate units, and the processor could handle floating-point numbers and compute the four basic arithmetical operations as well as the square root of a number. The program was stored on punched tape and was read sequentially. In the last section of this paper, I put the architecture of the Z1 and Z3 into historical perspective by offering a comparison with com- puting machines built in other countries. Introduction onrad Zuse is popularly recognized in Germany as the fa- ther of the computer, and his Z1, a programmable automa- ton built from 1936 to 1938, has been called the first computer in the world. Other nations reserve this honor for one of their own scientists, and there has been a long and often acrimonious debate on the issue of who is the true inventor of the computer. Some- times the discussion is preempted by specifying in full detail the technological features of a specific machine. The Electronic Nu- merical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), for example, has been called the first “large-scale general-purpose electronic computer in the world.” 2 The ENIAC was built at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering of the University of Pennsylvania from May 1943 to 1945. It solved its first problem in December 1945 and was officially presented in February 1946. Another contender for the title of the first computer is the Mark I, built by Howard Aiken at Harvard University between 1939 and 1944. The Mark I was an electromechanical machine, not of the all-mechanical na- ture of previous computing devices and not built with the elec- tronics available at the time. 1 The machine John Atanasoff built (later called the ABC) at Iowa State College from 1938 to 1942 used vacuum tubes but was restricted to the addition and subtrac- tion of vectors and had a structure inappropriate for universal computation. 2 In direct contrast to these three machines, the Z1 was more flexible and was designed to execute a long and modifi- able sequence of instructions contained on a punched tape. Zuse’s machines, the Z3 and the Z4, were not electronic and were of reduced size. Since the Z3 was completed and was successfully working prior to the Mark I, it has been called the first program- mable calculating machine in the world. Of course the old debate
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