Mailüfterl

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Today the Mailüfterl is located in the Technisches Museum Wien

Mailüfterl is an Austrian nickname for one of the first transistorized computers on the European mainland. World-wide, the first computers of this kind were TRADIC, Harwell CADET and TX-0.

Mailüfterl wire side

Mailüfterl was built from May 1956 to May 1958 at the Vienna University of Technology by Heinz Zemanek. The first program, computation of the prime 5 073 548 261, was also executed in May 1958. Completion of the software continued until 1961. The name originates in a word-play by Zemanek: Even if it cannot match the rapid calculation speed of American models called "Whirlwind" or "Typhoon", it will be enough for a "Wiener Mailüfterl" (which is the German meaning for something like Viennese May breeze). The official name of the machine is Binär dezimaler Volltransistor-Rechenautomat (binary-decimal fully transistorized computing automaton).

Mailüfterl Control Unit

The computer consists of 3,000 transistors, 5,000 diodes, 1,000 assembly platelets, 100,000 solder joints, 15,000 resistors, 5,000 capacitors and 20,000 meters (12.43 miles approx) of wire. With a width of 4 meters (13' 1 1/2"), a height of 2.5 meters (8' 2 1/2") and a depth of 50 centimeters (19 11/16"), the machine was comparable in calculating power to what were then considered small tube computers.

Zemanek said about his famous project later that it was a "semi-illegal" undertaking of an assistant professor, which he realized without official authorization and hence without financial support from the university, together with a group of students. In 1954 he traveled to Philips in the Netherlands, where he asked for a donation in kind. The amount of 1,000 transistors was very difficult to obtain at any price, only seven years after their realization and with their commercialization just picking up speed. Yet Zemanek received a commitment for 1000 - rather slow - hearing aid transistors [1] and Philips finally shipped a total of 4,000 high-quality transistors to the Austrians.

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ interview with Heinz Zemanek, Telepolis, 8 August 1999

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