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Today the Mailüfterl is in the Technisches Museum Wien
Today the Mailüfterl is in the Technisches Museum Wien

Mailüfterl is a nickname for the Austrian Binär dezimaler Volltransistor-Rechenautomat (binary-decimal fully transistorized computing automaton), an early transistorized computer. Other early transistorized computers included TRADIC, Harwell CADET and TX-0.

Mailüfterl wire side
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 executed in May 1958. Completion of the software continued until 1961. The nickname was coined 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" (Viennese May breeze).

Mailüfterl Control Unit
Mailüfterl Control Unit

The computer has 3,000 transistors, 5,000 diodes,[1] 1,000 assembly platelets, 100,000 solder joints, 15,000 resistors, 5,000 capacitors and about 20,000 metres (66,000 ft) of wire. It is 4 meters (13') wide, 2.5 meters (8') high, and 50 centimeters (20") deep. The machine was comparable in calculating power to what were then considered small vacuum tube computers.

Zemanek later said about his project that it was a "semi-illegal" undertaking of an assistant professor, which he and a group of students realized without official authorization, and hence without financial support, from the university. In 1954 he traveled to Philips in the Netherlands, where he asked for a donation in kind. Transistors, invented seven years before and just beginning to be available commercially, were very difficult to obtain in quantity at any price, but Zemanek received a commitment for 1,000 rather slow hearing-aid transistors,[2] and Philips finally shipped a total of 4,000 high-quality transistors to the Austrians.

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At that time in America attempts had been made to make very fast computers however less with transistors, more with valves So correspondingly they were given names like Typhoon or Whirlwind and such like Zemanek's remark was "fine, so in Vienna we won't build a Typhoon but it'll be a Viennese May breeze instead" An Austrian Star of European Computing The Mailüfterl started in Gusshausstrasse at the Technical University I had this strange opportunity as I had no boss Zemanek was assistant professor at the university and essentially took advantage of the circumstances to become de facto head of the Institute I simply took the liberty to build a computer and no one stopped me Physically the Mailüfterl fits inside a fairly large frame that's over two metres high and several metres wide Essentially the Mailüfterl consisted of 3000 transistors and 5000 diodes Everything else needed for his project had to be organised by the group and in particular by Zemanek Zemanek made great efforts to get hold of this transistor technology I managed to get all 3000 and the diodes too donated from Philips in Holland They were actually designed for hearing aids and that's not exactly something that helps to speed up computational tasks We tried to find people who had a certain enthusiasm and a certain appetite for risk as no one could really guarantee that the Mailüfterl project would amount to anything Recruitment was always done on a student basis so Zemanek then selected a handful of people You can imagine, when you have 3000 plus 5000 plus a few thousand more components everything needs to be assembled No one had a problem working long hours having to work at weekends too was a given There were no computer journals and very few books on computers So really one had to gather the information on one's own in order to know enough to build a computer So very quickly I went from being an electrical engineer to a programmer The Mailüfterl did work, it calculated all kinds of things but we needed to know whether it could function for hours at a time We could listen in to the rhythm of the program When we left programs running overnight we could hear the radio via the telephone system and hear if the correct rhythm was still there or if just a continuous tone was left and therefore something had gone wrong We kept watch over it like a patient in intensive care From today's perspective of course the machine was a monstrosity At that time the machine was the best we could make out of the components available Just the visibility alone of the Mailüfterl project helped to establish computing in Austria Zemanek was always a man of vision One vision was for us to get into the new computer technology and to have the chance to play an international role I'm an engineer to my core and that means "truth is what works" In the 1950's, a group of Austrian students led by Heinz Zemanek designed and built the Mailüfterl, one of the earliest fully transistorized computers On May 27th 1958 it ran its first calculation For a brief moment, this "Viennese spring breeze" put Austria at the vanguard of European computing


  1. ^ "COMPUTERS, OVERSEAS: 3. Der Technischen Hochschule, MAILUFTERL, Vienna, Austria". Digital Computer Newsletter. 10 (1): 14–15. Jan 1958.
  2. ^ Karner, Josef (1999-08-08). "Mailüfterl, Al Chorezmi und Künstliche Intelligenz" [Mailüfterl, Al Chorezmi and Artificial Intelligence]. Telepolis (in German). Google translation. Archived from the original on 2006-03-03. Retrieved 2018-01-27.

See also

External links

This page was last edited on 21 September 2018, at 02:26
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