Heinz Nixdorf

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Heinz Nixdorf
Born(1925-04-09)April 9, 1925
DiedMarch 17, 1986(1986-03-17) (aged 60)
Known forFounder of Nixdorf Computer

Heinz Nixdorf (April 9, 1925 – March 17, 1986) was a German computing pioneer, businessman and founder of Nixdorf Computer AG.

Nixdorf was born in Paderborn.

The 27-year-old Nixdorf, at the time a physics student, founded his first computer company in 1952. As the owner, he led this company to become an international electronics concern that had a revenue of almost four billion D-Mark at its peak. His microcomputers were competitors to IBM mainframes. Due to his work and success Nixdorf is known as one of the founders, who today are closely linked for the German economic miracle. He also was an ambitious sportsman and is remembered for his efforts to provide good education to his employees. In 1986 he died of a heart attack in Hanover at the CeBIT

Early life[edit]

Nixdorf was born on April 9, 1925 as the oldest child of five. He went to a Catholic board school where he first showed his talent for maths and science. Due to his father's unemployment during the 1920s and 30s, his childhood was defined by poverty. Achieving good grades in school he was offered a scholarship to become a teacher. Uninterested in becoming a teacher, Nixdorf wrote a letter to the Ministry of Education in Berlin. As a result, he was granted permission to attend the Reismann-Gymnasium in Paderborn starting in 1941. In 1942, Nixdorf was drafted by the Wehrmacht and served on the Eastern Front. He completed his education in 1947, receiving the Abitur.


With the aid of a scholarship Nixdorf studied physics at the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe Universität in Frankfurt am Main in 1947. In addition to his education in physics, he also attended seminars in business economics. In 1951 Nixdorf started working for the development department of Remington Rand Corp. There he gained knowledge of light calculators and met Walter Sprick, whose assistant he became. Leaving Remington to work at IBM, Sprick handed some of his work and inventions over to Nixdorf. Based on those concepts, Nixdorf developed the Elektronensaldierer and the Elektronenmultiplizierer.

Founding and development of the company[edit]

In 1952 Nixdorf founded the Labor für Impulstechnik in Essen. On September 5, 1952, Nixdorf hired his first employee Alfred Wierzioch, both of them being convinced by the idea of the calculator. In 1954 they published their first vacuum-tube computer, called ES. From this point on the company grew rapidly.

In 1959 the company moved to Paderborn where Nixdorf was born. Utilizing his connections there he had ambitious plans to grow his company. In 1961 his company had 60 employees. In 1965 Nixdorf presented a desk calculator at Hannover Messe, which was the company's first computer and which was widely considered a technical revolution. The Nixdorf company developed the Nixdorf System 820 in 1967 which was very successful. In 1968 Nixdorf bought Wanderer-Werke and renamed the company Nixdorf Computer AG. In 1970 Nixdorf was making machines for RUF. Nixdorf is alleged to have broken its contracts, offered employment to RUF programmers and other employees, and begun to market the RUF machine as Nixdorf.

National and international success[edit]

The national and international success of the brand started in the 70s. By 1985 the company's revenue was about four billion D-Mark and it employed 24,000 people in 44 countries. Nixdorf died of a heart attack on March 17, 1986 at the CeBIT in Hannover.

Nixdorf as an employer[edit]

Nixdorf was invested in the education of his employees, which he promoted with a lot of personal effort and money. In 1969 he founded a trade school on the company premises. Furthermore, he supported the Universität-Gesamthochschule Paderborn. He also enabled his employees to exercise physically—offering sport courses and building the Ahorn-Sportpark in Paderborn in 1984. The sport park was also open to the public, and is free of charge up to today.[when?]

Nixdorf also played an instrumental role in the building of Paderborn airport, after threatening to move the company to Frankfurt am Main if no adequate infrastructure were provided. The Paderborn Lippstadt Airport was built and was opened in 1971. Its construction cost was 13.7 million D-Mark.

Personal life[edit]

Nixdorf married Renate Ring in 1960. The couple had three sons, one of whom, Martin Nixdorf, is current chairman of the Heinz-Nixdorf-Stiftung and the Stiftung Westfalen.

External links[edit]