Mailüfterl: an Austrian star of European computing

Mailüfterl: an Austrian star of European computing


At that time in America attempts had been
made to make very fast computers however less with transistors, more with valves So correspondingly they were given names like
Typhoon or Whirlwind and such like Zemanek’s remark was “fine, so in Vienna we
won’t build a Typhoon but it’ll be a Viennese May breeze instead” An Austrian Star of European Computing The Mailüfterl started in Gusshausstrasse
at the Technical University I had this strange opportunity as I had no boss Zemanek was assistant professor at the university and essentially took advantage of the circumstances to become de facto head of the Institute I simply took the liberty to build a computer
and no one stopped me Physically the Mailüfterl fits inside a fairly large frame that’s over two metres high and several metres wide Essentially the Mailüfterl consisted of 3000 transistors and 5000 diodes Everything else needed for his project had to be organised by the group
and in particular by Zemanek Zemanek made great efforts to
get hold of this transistor technology I managed to get all 3000 and the diodes too donated from Philips in Holland They were actually designed for hearing aids and that’s not exactly something that helps
to speed up computational tasks We tried to find people who had a certain enthusiasm
and a certain appetite for risk as no one could really guarantee that
the Mailüfterl project would amount to anything Recruitment was always done on a student basis so Zemanek then selected a handful of people You can imagine, when you have 3000 plus 5000 plus a few thousand more components everything needs to be assembled No one had a problem working long hours having to work at weekends too was a given There were no computer journals
and very few books on computers So really one had to gather the
information on one’s own in order to know enough to build a computer So very quickly I went from being an electrical engineer to a programmer The Mailüfterl did work, it calculated
all kinds of things but we needed to know whether it could
function for hours at a time We could listen in to the rhythm of the program When we left programs running overnight we
could hear the radio via the telephone system and hear if the correct rhythm was still there or if just a continuous tone was left and therefore something had gone wrong We kept watch over it like a patient
in intensive care From today’s perspective of course the
machine was a monstrosity At that time the machine was the
best we could make out of the components available Just the visibility alone of the Mailüfterl project helped to establish computing in Austria Zemanek was always a man of vision One vision was for us to get into
the new computer technology and to have the chance to play an
international role I’m an engineer to my core and that means “truth is what works” In the 1950’s, a group of Austrian students led by Heinz Zemanek
designed and built the Mailüfterl, one of the earliest
fully transistorized computers On May 27th 1958 it ran its first calculation For a brief moment, this “Viennese spring breeze” put
Austria at the vanguard of European computing

Daniel Ostrander

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22 thoughts on “Mailüfterl: an Austrian star of European computing

  1. JackhammerJesus says:

    Shows that Austrians can be at vanguard of everything and dominate every field- as long as they do not expect any fundings or other help from their institutions.

  2. bloody_albatross says:

    And as long as they don't keep repeating the mantra: "But we are such a small country!"

  3. Roland Schweiger says:

    Although long before my time, still very fascinating. It really would be nice if someone was able to bring the Mailüfterl to life and demonstrate ist functionality at the technical Museum; if someone would re-fit the Transistors and diods, use some teletypewriter for the output etc. This really would be an appraisal to prof. Cemanek and his team. Right at this time: who wants to see the Mailüfterl, has to search painstakingly to even find it. 🙁 (and he has to bring a torch light) 🙁

  4. Bernhard H. says:

    Ohne Hr. Dr Zemanek und Hr Dr Zeilinger wäre Österreich auf wissenschafticher Seite weit weg vom Schuss. Daher Danke….tausendmal Danke!!

  5. Christopher Kuthan says:

    Very interesting, thanks for the video and, especially thanks to Hr. Dr. Zemanek. Makes me a tiny little bit proud of my old Alma Matar…

  6. MaxiTB says:

    Innovation – most fruitful without forced directions and restrictions.

  7. Georg Schildhammer says:

    And your "alma matEr" would be proud of you, if you named her correctly..!

    ;-))

  8. Oliver Lammel says:

    Die seltsame Change war – keinen Chef zu haben …

  9. picasadeluxe says:

    "Der Blechtrottel sitzt vor dem Computer !
    Der Computer ist ein verlässliches Werkzeug und funktioniert !( Heinz Zemanek)

    Meiner spinnt leider hin und wieder , das wird wohl an der "kranken" Software liegen 🙂

  10. Gerhard Ackermann says:

    And I thought 1976 Zemanek is an old man when I listened fascinated to his Proseminar in my first semester of informatic at TU Vienna. What a great person! All the best for the years coming!

  11. superfilmer1 says:

    Ihr werdet es nicht glauben, aber wir (Philips Service Zentrale in Wien) haben ihm damals ganze Schachteln von Transitoren und Widerständen geschenkt. Später haben wir uns als IBM Mitarbeiter wieder getroffen. Ich habe ein 30 Minuten Interview mit ihm, vor zwei Jahren aufgenommen

  12. Adio Gemon says:

    Any translation in English ?

  13. Lynette Webb says:

    There are subtitles in English already. Depending on your settings you might just have to turn them on. To do this, click on the little "cc" button and then select 'English' in the drop down menu

  14. xylfox says:

    Des hod dem Josef Nossek damals gfalln :-))

  15. GorillaTweets says:

    The end of an worthy life. Rest in peace Professor.

  16. stichri says:

    For one lecture, Heinz Zemanek was my teacher at the Technical University in Vienna. 

    He was simply so great! I loved it to get knowledge from him. Awesome! 

    This great man died this week. And this makes me sad. 

  17. Niklas Heikamp says:

    Very interesting video.
    Does anyone know the soundtrack?

  18. Michael Royc says:

    Mögen Sie in Frieden ruhen. Rest in peace Heinz Zemanek.

  19. Florian Brunner says:

    RIP Heinz Zemanek

  20. CUBETechie says:

    kann man das mailüfterl heute nachbauen also mit dem was man im elektronikfachhandel findet und wie viel würde es denn kosten würde mich wirklich interessieren. ein bisschen könnte man tricksen mit dem arbeitsspeicher aber sonst wäre es sehr interessant transistoren sind heute spottbillig und erfüllen sicher die selben vorrausetzungen. 
    der günstigste transistor kostet unter 10 cent Pro stück habe es für 1 000 000 transistoren berechnet und joah nicht gerade günstig  aber für etwa 1000 transistoren 70 € bei conrad.

  21. CUBETechie says:

    drückt man denen einen rasperry pi in die hand und die werden für mindestens 20 jahre an der spitzer der rechenleistung 😀 

  22. Nicolai Kronreif says:

    krass alter

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