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The Early Years of Computing in Switzerland

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129366D
Original Publication Date: 1981-Apr-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-05
Document File: 17 page(s) / 61K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

H. R. SCHWARZ: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

The computer-aided era in Switzerland started in 1950 with the relay machine Z4. Its main properties are described, and the numerical work carried out on it is presented. The ideas pursued and the basic discoveries realized are discussed. During the operation of the Z4, the staff of the Institute for Applied Mathematics at ETH designed the electronic computer ERMETH. Its properties as well as the most important numerical investigations of the years from 1956 to 1962 are outlined, including the work on algorithmic languages and compilers. Keywords: computing in Switzerland, relay machine Z4, Zuse, Rutishauser, Stiefel, numerical research, symbolic languages, program generation, algorithmic language, ALGOL compilers, ERMETH CR Categorioa: 1. 2, 3. 1, 3.2

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1981 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

The Early Years of Computing in Switzerland

H. R. SCHWARZ

  (Image Omitted: © 1981 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Permission to copy without fee all or part of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for direct commercial advantage, the AMPS copyright notice and the title of the publication and its date appear, and notice is given that copying is by permission of the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. To copy otherwise, or to republish, requires specific permission. Author's Address Seminar fur Angewandte Mathematik, Universitit Zurich, Freiestrasse 36, CH-8032 Zurich, Switzerland. © 1981 AFIPS 0164-1239/81

/0201 21-132$0.00/0)

The computer-aided era in Switzerland started in 1950 with the relay machine Z4. Its main properties are described, and the numerical work carried out on it is presented. The ideas pursued and the basic discoveries realized are discussed. During the operation of the Z4, the staff of the Institute for Applied Mathematics at ETH designed the electronic computer ERMETH. Its properties as well as the most important numerical investigations of the years from 1956 to 1962 are outlined, including the work on algorithmic languages and compilers. Keywords: computing in Switzerland, relay machine Z4, Zuse, Rutishauser, Stiefel, numerical research, symbolic languages, program generation, algorithmic language, ALGOL compilers, ERMETH CR Categorioa: 1. 2, 3. 1, 3.2

1. Introduction

In Switzerland the era of scientific computing on the basis of a programmable computer started in 1950, when the famous relay computer Z4 was installed at the Institute of Applied Mathematics of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule -- ETH) in Zurich. Thanks to the vision and personal initiative of Eduard Stiefel (April 21, 1909-November 25, 1978), director of the institute, the Z4 developed by Konrad Zuse was rented for a period of five years with the aim of introducing computer-aided numerical analysis into Swiss industry and to make it accessible to interested people. At the same time, the first machine served not only to gain practical experience with numerical methods, but also to get the necessary insight for the development and subsequent maintenance of a future new machine.

Several aspects of the early years of computing from 1950 until about 1962 are pointed out in this text. From a historical point of view it seems worthwhile to describe in some detail the properties of the relay machine Z4 first in order to be able to appreciate the numerical work done with it at that time and to understand some of the investigations of Heinz Rutishauser (January 30, 1918-November 10, 1978), who provided much of the basis for present comp...