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Three Inventors -- Scenes from Early German Computing History

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129654D
Original Publication Date: 1990-Mar-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 16 page(s) / 88K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

RALF BULOW: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Most of the inventions described in this article originated in Germany in the 1920s and early 193( s. Emil Schilling filed a patent for a pneumatic calculator control system in 1926; Francisco Campos designed a mechanical storage device in the 20's; and Adolf Weypandt built a relay calculator for determinants in 1932. While the three inventors did not directly effect the development of the modem computer, their ideas can be viewed as parts of independent technological traditions which are quite common in the history of data processing.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1990 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Three Inventors -- Scenes from Early German Computing History

RALF BULOW

(Image Omitted: Author's Address: Blutenstr. 20, 8000 Munchen 40, West Germany.)

Most of the inventions described in this article originated in Germany in the 1920s and early 193( s. Emil Schilling filed a patent for a pneumatic calculator control system in 1926; Francisco Campos designed a mechanical storage device in the 20's; and Adolf Weypandt built a relay calculator for determinants in 1932. While the three inventors did not directly effect the development of the modem computer, their ideas can be viewed as parts of independent technological traditions which are quite common in the history of data processing.

Categories and Subject Descriptors: K.2. [Computing Milieux]: History of Computing -- hardware, people; calculating machines. General Terms -- Design. Additional Terms -- Emil Schilling, patents, Francisco Campos, Adolf Weygandt, determinants.

The major purpose of this article is to introduce three men who had no direct influence on the actual development of the modern electronic computer but whose ideas may help us to a better understanding of the intellectual and technological environments which made this achievement possible. Two of them were born in Germany, one came from Spain, but as he lived in Germany in the 1920s and his first machine was built in Hamburg in 1928, we may safely include him under our title. The main inventions described here were developed within a short span of time, the period from the mid-1920s until 1932, which was perhaps the most decisive era of this century in Germany, apart from the World Wars. It was a time of political shocks, and cultural, scientific and technological revolutions, so it is reasonable to investigate what steps were taken toward novel concepts of computing.

The second purpose is to draw attention to the "small inventor," a person who designed a machine, wrote one or two articles, or only patent specifications, and was henceforward forgotten. The men whom we will study belong to that category; one of them even failed to produce a working model of his invention. There are others in German computing history whose ideas are scarcely mentioned today but merit a similar thorough analysis. We are convinced that a systematic search of patent archives and journals on business machines, scientific instruments, and applied mathematics would yield equally interesting results in the rest of the world, too.

The computing devices that were in use before the advent of the electronic computer are traditionally grouped under a number of different labels, e.g., difference engines, desk calculators, tide predictors, differential analyzers. Each of these groups can be viewed in relation to the modern computer, as often happens in popular accounts w...