[SIGCIS-Members] Zuse / binary

Ceruzzi, Paul CeruzziP at si.edu
Sat Jul 8 09:40:19 PDT 2023

Fascinating discussion. Zuse told me that he was taught binary arithmetic in grade school, but he only learned of Leibniz's essay on binary (ca. 1680) after Zuse began work on computers. Babbage was an admirer of Leibniz's work but did not consider binary for his engines.  The Z1, which had a binary calculating unit, did not work well, and therefore Zuse adopted electromagnetic relays (a technology not available to Babbage) for his later machines, which did work. Attempts to reconstruct the Z1 for the Deutsches Technikmuseum using late 20th-Century machine tools also failed --  please correct me if I am mistaken. But note that Zuse built a successful mecahnical binary memory​ unit for the Z4, which not only worked well but which was in steady service at the ETH in Switzerland for years. The joke was that the clicking of the Z4 relays was the loudest noise in Zurich on any given evening. The Z4 is now at the Deutsches Museum in Munich.

Paul Ceruzzi
From: Members <members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org> on behalf of Jesper Juul via Members <members at lists.sigcis.org>
Sent: Saturday, July 8, 2023 8:05 AM
To: Evan Koblentz <evank at njit.edu>
Cc: members at lists.sigcis.org <members at lists.sigcis.org>
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Zuse / binary

External Email - Exercise Caution

In Raúl Rojas' paper on the Z1/Z3(1), he writes that "instead of using gears (as Babbage had done in the previous century), Zuse implemented logical and arithmetical operations using sliding metallic rods. The rods could move in only one of two directions (forward or backward) and therefore were appropriate for a binary machine." The Z1 is 1936-38.

This doesn't quite explain if rods or binary arithmetic came first, but there is a footnote to Zuse's book "Der Computer mein Lebenswerk".

As a side note, I can recommend seeing the Z1 in the Technical Museum in Berlin if you are near.

Jesper Juul

1) https://ed-thelen.org/comp-hist/Zuse_Z1_and_Z3.pdf

On Fri, 7 Jul 2023 at 18:34, Evan Koblentz via Members <members at lists.sigcis.org<mailto:members at lists.sigcis.org>> wrote:
What are some good articles addressing why Zuse, Aiken, Stibitz, etc.
decided to use binary (or not)?

Evan Koblentz

New Jersey Institute of Technology
- Senior Writer, Office of Communications and Marketing
- Adjunct Instructor, Ying Wu College of Computing
- Faculty/Staff Advisor, NJIT Lego Club

evank at njit.edu<mailto:evank at njit.edu>
(973) 596-3065

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