VIENNA, July 17 Heinz Zemanek, who briefly put
Austria in the vanguard of European computing in the 1950s with
his "May Breeze" computer, has died in Vienna at the age of 94,
his old university said.
Zemanek designed and built the "May Breeze", the first
computer on mainland Europe to run purely on transistors instead
of vacuum tubes, with the help of a group of students he
enlisted at the Vienna University of Technology (TUV).
Transistor computers generated less heat than vacuum-tube
computers and were a fraction of the size - although the "May
Breeze" - or "Mailuefterl" in German - was still around 4 metres
(13 feet) wide, 2.5 metres tall and half a metre deep.
Zemanek got the 3,000 transistors needed as a donation from
Philips, but they were slow transistors intended for
hearing aids. The "May Breeze" name was a nod to the much faster
U.S. computers named after types of storm that were being built.
"We are not going to produce a Whirlwind or a Typhoon or any
of those big American storms, but we will have a very nice
little Viennese Mailuefterl, which is a spring time breeze,"
Zemanek said in a 1972 interview.
The computer performed its first calculation in 1958 and
remained at the university for a few years before being bought
by IBM, which built its Vienna Lab for Zemanek. It is
now on display at the Technical Museum in Vienna.
Zemanek said the project quickly turned him from an
electrical engineer into a programmer.
But in a short film made for Google's computing
heritage series, he said: "I am at my core an engineer, and that
means: What's true is what functions."
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)