Wednesday May 12, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The First Computer
On this Day:
In 1941, Konrad Zuse presented the Z3, the world’s first working programmable, fully automatic computer, in Berlin.
Konrad Zuse (22 June 1910 – 18 December 1995) was a German civil engineer, pioneering computer scientist, inventor and businessman. His greatest achievement was the world’s first programmable computer; the functional program-controlled Turing-complete Z3 became operational in May 1941. Thanks to this machine and its predecessors, Zuse has often been regarded as the inventor of the modern computer.
Zuse was noted for the S2 computing machine, considered the first process control computer. In 1941, he founded one of the earliest computer businesses, producing the Z4, which became the world’s first commercial computer. From 1943 to 1945 he designed Plankalkül, the first high-level programming language. In 1969, Zuse suggested the concept of a computation-based universe in his book Rechnender Raum (Calculating Space).
Much of his early work was financed by his family and commerce, but after 1939 he was given resources by the Nazi German government. Due to World War II, Zuse’s work went largely unnoticed in the United Kingdom and the United States. Possibly his first documented influence on a US company was IBM’s option on his patents in 1946.
In 1912, his family moved to East Prussian Braunsberg (now Braniewo in Poland), where his father was a postal clerk. Zuse attended the Collegium Hosianum in Braunsberg and in 1923, the family moved to Hoyerswerda where he passed his Abitur in 1928, qualifying him to enter university.
He enrolled in the Technische Hochschule Berlin (now Technical University of Berlin) and explored both engineering and architecture, but found them boring. Zuse then pursued civil engineering, graduating in 1935.
After graduation, Zuse worked for the Ford Motor Company, using his artistic skills in the design of advertisements. He started work as a design engineer at the Henschel aircraft factory in Schönefeld near Berlin. This required the performance of many routine calculations by hand, which he found mind-numbing, leading him to dream of doing them by machine.
Beginning in 1935 he experimented in the construction of computers in his parents’ flat on Wrangelstraße 38, moving with them into their new flat on Methfesselstraße 10, the street leading up the Kreuzberg, Berlin. Working in his parents’ apartment in 1936, he produced his first attempt, the Z1, a floating point binary mechanical calculator with limited programmability, reading instructions from a perforated 35 mm film.
In 1937, Zuse submitted two patents that anticipated a von Neumann architecture. In 1938, he finished the Z1 which contained some 30,000 metal parts and never worked well due to insufficient mechanical precision. On 30 January 1944, the Z1 and its original blueprints were destroyed with his parents’ flat and many neighbouring buildings by a British air raid in World War II.
Zuse completed his work entirely independently of other leading computer scientists and mathematicians of his day. Between 1936 and 1945, he was in near-total intellectual isolation.
In 1939, Zuse was called to military service, where he was given the resources to ultimately build the Z2. In September 1940 Zuse presented the Z2, covering several rooms in the parental flat, to experts of the Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt (DVL; i.e. German Research Institute for Aviation). The Z2 was a revised version of the Z1 using telephone relays.
In 1940, the German government began funding him and his company through the Aerodynamische Versuchsanstalt (AVA, Aerodynamic Research Institute, forerunner of the DLR), which used his work for the production of glide bombs. Zuse built the S1 and S2 computing machines, which were special purpose devices which computed aerodynamic corrections to the wings of radio-controlled flying bombs. The S2 featured an integrated analog-to-digital converter under program control, making it the first process-controlled computer.
In 1941 Zuse started a company, Zuse Apparatebau (Zuse Apparatus Construction), to manufacture his machines, renting a workshop on the opposite side in Methfesselstraße 7 and stretching through the block to Belle-Alliance Straße 29 (renamed and renumbered as Mehringdamm 84 in 1947).
In 1941, he improved on the basic Z2 machine, and built the Z3. On 12 May 1941 Zuse presented the Z3, built in his workshop, to the public. The Z3 was a binary 22-bit floating point calculator featuring programmability with loops but without conditional jumps, with memory and a calculation unit based on telephone relays. The telephone relays used in his machines were largely collected from discarded stock. Despite the absence of conditional jumps, the Z3 was a Turing complete computer. However, Turing-completeness was never considered by Zuse (who had practical applications in mind) and only demonstrated in 1998 (see History of computing hardware).
The Z3, the first fully operational electromechanical computer, was partially financed by German government-supported DVL, which wanted their extensive calculations automated. A request by his co-worker Helmut Schreyer—who had helped Zuse build the Z3 prototype in 1938—for government funding for an electronic successor to the Z3 was denied as “strategically unimportant”.
In 1937, Schreyer had advised Zuse to use vacuum tubes as switching elements; Zuse at this time considered it a crazy idea (“Schnapsidee” in his own words). Zuse’s workshop on Methfesselstraße 7 (with the Z3) was destroyed in an Allied Air raid in late 1943 and the parental flat with Z1 and Z2 on 30 January the following year, whereas the successor Z4, which Zuse had begun constructing in 1942 in new premises in the Industriehof on Oranienstraße 6, remained intact.
On 3 February 1945, aerial bombing caused devastating destruction in the Luisenstadt, the area around Oranienstraße, including neighbouring houses. This event effectively brought Zuse’s research and development to a complete halt. The partially finished, telephone relay-based Z4 computer was then packed and moved from Berlin on 14 February, arriving in Göttingen approximately two weeks later.
These machines contributed to the Henschel Werke Hs 293 and Hs 294 guided missiles developed by the German military between 1941 and 1945, which were the precursors to the modern cruise missile. The circuit design of the S1 was the predecessor of Zuse’s Z11. Zuse believed that these machines had been captured by occupying Soviet troops in 1945.
While working on his Z4 computer, Zuse realised that programming in machine code was too complicated. He started working on a PhD thesis. containing groundbreaking research years ahead of its time[editorializing], mainly the first high-level programming language, Plankalkül (“Plan Calculus”) and, as an elaborate example program, the first real computer chess engine.
After the 1945 Luisenstadt bombing, he flew from Berlin for the rural Allgäu. In the extreme privation of post-war Germany Zuse was unable to build computers.
Zuse founded one of the earliest computer companies: the Zuse-Ingenieurbüro Hopferau. Capital was raised in 1946 through ETH Zurich and an IBM option on Zuse’s patents.
In 1947, according to the memoirs of the German computer pioneer Heinz Billing from the Max Planck Institute for Physics, there was a meeting between Alan Turing and Konrad Zuse in Göttingen. The encounter had the form of a colloquium. Participants were Womersley, Turing, Porter from England and a few German researchers like Zuse, Walther, and Billing. (For more details see Herbert Bruderer, Konrad Zuse und die Schweiz).
It was not until 1949 that Zuse was able to resume work on the Z4. He would show the computer to the mathematician Eduard Stiefel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich) who then ordered one in 1950. In November 1949, Zuse KG was founded and that Z4 was delivered to ETH Zurich in July 1950, and proved very reliable.
In 1949, Zuse founded another company, Zuse KG in Haunetal-Neukirchen; in 1957 the company’s head office moved to Bad Hersfeld. The Z4 was finished and delivered to the ETH Zurich, Switzerland in September 1950. At that time, it was the only working computer in continental Europe, and the second computer in the world to be sold, beaten only by the BINAC, which never worked properly after it was delivered. Other computers, all numbered with a leading Z, up to Z43, were built by Zuse and his company. Notable are the Z11, which was sold to the optics industry and to universities, and the Z22, the first computer with a memory based on magnetic storage.
Unable to do any hardware development, he continued working on the Plankalkül, eventually publishing some brief excerpts of his thesis in 1948 and 1959; the work in its entirety, however, remained unpublished until 1972. The PhD thesis was submitted at University of Augsburg, but rejected for formal reasons, because Zuse forgot to pay the 400 Mark university enrollment fee. The rejection did not bother him.
Plankalkül slightly influenced the design of ALGOL 58 but was itself implemented only in 1975 in a dissertation by Joachim Hohmann. Heinz Rutishauser, one of the inventors of ALGOL, 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”. Further implementations followed in 1998 and then in 2000 by a team from the Free University of Berlin. Donald Knuth suggested a thought experiment: What might have happened had the bombing not taken place, and had the PhD thesis accordingly been published as planned?
In 1956, Zuse began to work on a high precision, large format plotter. It was demonstrated at the 1961 Hanover Fair, and became well known also outside of the technical world thanks to Frieder Nake’s pioneering computer art work. Other plotters designed by Zuse include the ZUSE Z90 and ZUSE Z9004.
An elementary process in Zuse’s Calculating Space: Two digital particles A und B form a new digital particle C.
In 1967, Zuse suggested that the universe itself is running on a cellular automaton or similar computational structure (digital physics); in 1969, he published the book Rechnender Raum (translated into English as Calculating Space).
In the last years of his life, Zuse conceptualized and created a purely mechanical, extensible, modular tower automaton he named “helix tower” (“Helixturm”). The structure is based on a gear drive that employs rotary motion (e.g. provided by a crank) to assemble modular components from a storage space, elevating a tube-shaped tower; the process is reversible, and inverting the input direction will deconstruct the tower and store the components. The Deutsches Museum restored Zuse’s original 1:30 functional model that can be extended to a height of 2.7 m. Zuse intended the full construction to reach a height of 120 m, and envisioned it for use with wind power generators and radio transmission installations.
Between 1987 and 1989, Zuse recreated the Z1, suffering a heart attack midway through the project. It cost 800,000 DM, (approximately $500,000) and required four individuals (including Zuse) to assemble it. Funding for this retrocomputing project was provided by Siemens and a consortium of five companies. (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
What’s the best way to learn how to build a computer? Bit by bit.
Second, a Song:
Franz Peter Schubert (31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828) was an Austrian composer of the late Classical and early Romantic eras. Despite his short lifetime, Schubert left behind a vast oeuvre, including more than 600 secular vocal works (mainly lieder), seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of piano and chamber music. His major works include “Erlkönig” (D. 328), the Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667 (Trout Quintet), the Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D. 759 (Unfinished Symphony), the ”Great” Symphony No. 9 in C major, D. 944, the String Quintet (D. 956), the three last piano sonatas (D. 958–960), the opera Fierrabras (D. 796), the incidental music to the play Rosamunde (D. 797), and the song cycles Die schöne Müllerin (D. 795) and Winterreise (D. 911).
Born in the Himmelpfortgrund suburb of Vienna, Schubert showed uncommon gifts for music from an early age. His father gave him his first violin lessons and his elder brother gave him piano lessons, but Schubert soon exceeded their abilities. In 1808, at the age of eleven, he became a pupil at the Stadtkonvikt school, where he became acquainted with the orchestral music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. He left the Stadtkonvikt at the end of 1813, and returned home to live with his father, where he began studying to become a schoolteacher. Despite this, he continued his studies in composition with Antonio Salieri and still composed prolifically. In 1821, Schubert was admitted to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde as a performing member, which helped establish his name among the Viennese citizenry. He gave a concert of his own works to critical acclaim in March 1828, the only time he did so in his career. He died eight months later at the age of 31, the cause officially attributed to typhoid fever, but believed by some historians to be syphilis.
Appreciation of Schubert’s music while he was alive was limited to a relatively small circle of admirers in Vienna, but interest in his work increased greatly in the decades following his death. Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms and other 19th-century composers discovered and championed his works. Today, Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers of Western classical music and his music continues to be popular.
Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D 759 (sometimes renumbered as Symphony No. 7, in accordance with the revised Deutsch catalogue and the Neue Schubert-Ausgabe), commonly known as the Unfinished Symphony (German: Unvollendete), is a musical composition that Schubert started in 1822 but left with only two movements—though he lived for another six years. A scherzo, nearly completed in piano score but with only two pages orchestrated, also survives.
It has been theorized by some musicologists, including Brian Newbould, that Schubert may have sketched a finale that instead became the big B minor entr’acte from his incidental music to Rosamunde, but all evidence for this is circumstantial. One possible reason for Schubert’s leaving the symphony incomplete is the predominance of the same meter (triple meter). The first movement is in 3/4, the second in 3/8 and the third (an incomplete scherzo) again in 3/4. Three consecutive movements in basically the same meter rarely occur in symphonies, sonatas, or chamber works of the most important Viennese composers.
Schubert’s Eighth Symphony is sometimes called the first Romantic symphony due to its emphasis on the lyrical impulse within the dramatic structure of Classical sonata form. Furthermore, its orchestration is not solely tailored for functionality, but specific combinations of instrumental timbre that are prophetic of the later Romantic movement, with astonishing vertical spacing occurring for example at the beginning of the development.
To this day, musicologists still disagree as to why Schubert failed to complete the symphony. Some have speculated that he stopped work in the middle of the scherzo in the fall of 1822 because he associated it with his initial outbreak of syphilis—or that he was distracted by the inspiration for his Wanderer Fantasy for solo piano, which occupied his time and energy immediately afterward. It could have been a combination of both factors.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence demonstrated by machines, unlike the natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals, which involves consciousness and emotionality. The distinction between the former and the latter categories is often revealed by the acronym chosen. ‘Strong’ AI is usually labelled as artificial general intelligence (AGI) while attempts to emulate ‘natural’ intelligence have been called artificial biological intelligence (ABI). Leading AI textbooks define the field as the study of “intelligent agents”: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals. Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is often used to describe machines that mimic “cognitive” functions that humans associate with the human mind, such as “learning” and “problem solving”.
As machines become increasingly capable, tasks considered to require “intelligence” are often removed from the definition of AI, a phenomenon known as the AI effect. A quip in Tesler’s Theorem says “AI is whatever hasn’t been done yet.” For instance, optical character recognition is frequently excluded from things considered to be AI, having become a routine technology. Modern machine capabilities generally classified as AI include successfully understanding human speech, competing at the highest level in strategic game systems (such as chess and Go), and also imperfect-information games like poker, self-driving cars, intelligent routing in content delivery networks, and military simulations.
Artificial intelligence was founded as an academic discipline in 1955, and in the years since has experienced several waves of optimism, followed by disappointment and the loss of funding (known as an “AI winter”), followed by new approaches, success and renewed funding. After AlphaGo successfully defeated a professional Go player in 2015, artificial intelligence once again attracted widespread global attention. For most of its history, AI research has been divided into sub-fields that often fail to communicate with each other. These sub-fields are based on technical considerations, such as particular goals (e.g. “robotics” or “machine learning”), the use of particular tools (“logic” or artificial neural networks), or deep philosophical differences. Sub-fields have also been based on social factors (particular institutions or the work of particular researchers).
The traditional problems (or goals) of AI research include reasoning, knowledge representation, planning, learning, natural language processing, perception and the ability to move and manipulate objects. AGI is among the field’s long-term goals. Approaches include statistical methods, computational intelligence, and traditional symbolic AI. Many tools are used in AI, including versions of search and mathematical optimization, artificial neural networks, and methods based on statistics, probability and economics. The AI field draws upon computer science, information engineering, mathematics, psychology, linguistics, philosophy, and many other fields.
The field was founded on the assumption that human intelligence “can be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it”. This raises philosophical arguments about the mind and the ethics of creating artificial beings endowed with human-like intelligence. These issues have been explored by myth, fiction and philosophy since antiquity. Some people also consider AI to be a danger to humanity if it progresses unabated. Others believe that AI, unlike previous technological revolutions, will create a risk of mass unemployment.
In the twenty-first century, AI techniques have experienced a resurgence following concurrent advances in computer power, large amounts of data, and theoretical understanding; and AI techniques have become an essential part of the technology industry, helping to solve many challenging problems in computer science, software engineering and operations research.
Now to finish the story, Huawei turned AI (artificial intelligence) loose on Schubert”s unfinished symphony. The AI composed a melody on a smartphone that was then turned into a full score by a human composer. Huawei hired composer Lucas Cantor to arrange an orchestral score based on a “melody” that the AI algorithm wrote. The following is from Huawei’s press release: “This wouldn’t have been possible without pairing the technological innovation of Huawei’s AI with human expertise, so Emmy award-winning composer Lucas Cantor was brought onboard to arrange an orchestral score based on the melody that the Mate 20 Pro smartphone composed to complete the symphony and perform it live.” (per Wikipedia and YouTube.com)
So here is Franz Schubert’s unfinished Symphony no. 8 in B minor, actually finished by Artificial Intelligence (A.I.).
The breakdown of the movements are as follows:
First movement: 0:06 (Schubert)
Second movement: 13:55 (Schubert)
Third movement: 24.:35 (A.I.)
Fourth movement: 35:52 (A.I.)
I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“You could say I was too lazy to calculate, so I invented the computer.” – Konrad Zuse
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky
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