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Konrad Zuse (pronounced [ˈkɔnʁat ˈtsuːzə]; 22 June 1910 Berlin – 18 December 1995 Hünfeld near Fulda) was a German engineer and computer pioneer.
His greatest achievement was the world’s first functional program-controlled Turing-complete computer, the Z3, in 1941 (the program was stored on a punched tape). He received the Werner-von-Siemens-Ring in 1964 for the Z3. His S2 computing machine is considered the first process-controlled computer, which was used to help develop the Henschel Werke Hs 293 and Hs 294, which were precursors to the modern cruise missile. It is also considered one of the first analog-to-digital converters.
Zuse also designed the first high-level programming language, Plankalkül, first published in 1948, although this was a theoretical contribution, since the language was not implemented in his lifetime and did not directly influence early languages. One of the inventors of ALGOL (Rutishauser) wrote: “The very first attempt to devise an algorithmic language was undertaken in 1948 by K. Zuse. His notation was quite general, but the proposal never attained the consideration it deserved.”
In addition to his technical work, Zuse founded one of the earliest computer businesses on the 1st of April 1941 (Zuse Ingenieurbüro und Apparatebau). This company built the Z4, which became the second commercial computer leased to ETH Zürich in 1950. Due to World War II, however, Zuse’s work went largely unnoticed in the UK and the U.S.; possibly his first documented influence on a U.S. company was IBM’s option on his patents in 1946. In the late 1960s, Zuse suggested the concept of a Calculating Space (a computation-based universe).
There is a replica of the Z3, as well as the Z4, in the Deutsches Museum in Munich.
The Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin in Berlin has an exhibition devoted to Zuse, displaying twelve of his machines, including a replica of the Z1, some original documents, including the specifications of Plankalkül, and several of Zuse’s paintings.