MATRIXSYNTH: Synth Rorschach #60: German Mainframe Computer DERA - Documentary from 1963

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Synth Rorschach #60: German Mainframe Computer DERA - Documentary from 1963

Published on Feb 12, 2019 MonoThyratron

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At the time of this film (1963) the computer colossus DERA (Darmstädter Elektronischer Rechenautomat) was actually already outdated. It was created in the tube era of electronics. The construction of the calculating machine was conceptually based on the American calculator MARK IV by Howard Aiken (* 8 March 1900 † 14 March 1973), which was constructed between 1949 and 1952.

In 1951 at the Darmstädter Institut für Praktische Mathematik (IPM) they began, under direction of Prof. Dr. h.c. Dr. Alwin Oswald Walther (* 6 May 1898 † 4 January 1967), with the conception of the mainframe computer DERA, a serially working automatic calculator in tube technology with memory, floating point representation and decimal output. It was first used in 1957, but the further development of the computer was already reduced in 1956 and finally abandoned completely in 1959, as DERA had already been overtaken by the newly emerging semiconductor technology. Furthermore, the machine was prone to errors and was therefore shut down after 1961.

Although Prof. Alwin Oswald Walther belonged to the luminaries of early German computer development and his pedagogical as well as technical abilities in teaching were undisputed, his work during the Second World War was repeatedly discussed. Thus he and his team were involved in the ballistic calculations of the Wernher von Brauns rocket experiments in Peenemünde during the 3rd Reich.

The astronomer Dr. Rudolf Kühn (* 27 January 1926 † 4. December 1963), who conducts the interview with Prof. Alwin Walther in this film document, appeared for the first time on German television in 1955. He also co-founded the magazine "Sterne und Weltraum" (Stars and Space) and had the gift of presenting science topics to a broad television audience in generally understandable words. He died in a traffic accident in the same year as this television documentary.

People in this documentary:
Rudolf Kühn (* 27 January 1926 † 4 December 1963)
Alwin Oswald Walther (* 6 May 1898 † 4 January 1967)
Waltraud Krötz [phon.] (trainee programmer)
Elke Geist (programmer)
Mr. Pohlmeier [phon.] (Electronics engineer, shows DERA tube assembly)
Mr. Maul [phon.] (operates punch card doubler)
Mrs. Brink [phon.] (only briefly to see)"

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