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Greatest Contributions by German Computer Scientists

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Though Germany is recognized for its strong manufacturing economy, many people are shocked to hear that the nation has produced some of computing’s most significant inventions. As seen by the list of German computer scientists, innovators, and visionaries, a German developer today has something to be proud of! Here are some of their most noteworthy contributions.

The Very First Programmable Computer

Konrad Zuse, one of the notable German computer scientists, built the first electromechanical programmable computer in total isolation in 1941. Zuse, who was tired of repetitive computations, set out to create a machine that could perform them for him. His finished “Z3” could perform rudimentary arithmetic and was programmable using punched film. What makes Zuse’s creation particularly impressive is that he was able to construct it with little resources during the conflict. 

Unbeknownst to Zuse, other individuals were trying to develop a comparable calculating machine all over the globe, but the traditional approach depended on a notoriously inaccurate rotary decimal system. Konrad, on the other hand, created his own from the ground up using a floating binary system. He then founded the world’s first computer firm, often regarded as the world’s first startup.

LCD

George H Heilmeier, also one of the greatest German computer scientists, joined a research team working with liquid crystals after completing his Ph.D. at Princeton University. Though he did not develop liquid crystals or discover that they responded to various voltages by rotating different covers, he was the guy who overcame the limits and sensitivity of liquid crystals to construct the first liquid crystal display. 

This technology was quickly used in the construction of digital watches, but it was not until much later that it was applied to the large screen TVs that we now identify with LCD.

Smart Card

Helmut Gröttrup and Jürgen Dethloff, two German computer scientists, originally proposed integrating an integrated circuit chip into a plastic card in the late 1960s. Gröttrup submitted a patent in West Germany in February 1967 for a tamper-proof identification switch based on a semiconductor device. Its major purpose was to offer unique copy-protected keys for releasing the tapping procedure at unmanned petrol stations.

Helmut Gröttrup, with Dethloff as an investor, submitted further patents for this identifying switch in September 1968, first in Austria and then in 1969 as following applications in the United States, Great Britain, West Germany, and other countries.

MP3

The Fraunhofer Institute, directed by famous German computer scientist Karlheinz Brandenburg, created the MP3 while researching a method to improve the quality of phone conversations. Initially, they created a refrigerator-sized machine that could decrease file size to 8% of the original, but they immediately recognized that this wasn’t practical and that they required an algorithm that could accomplish the same thing. 

Brandenburg ultimately broke the algorithm after tens of thousands of listens, using Suzanne Vega’s iconic pop song “Tom’s Diner” as a reference. When compared to the CD, the mp3 delivered a data reduction of up to 90%. Whereas a CD can carry 74 minutes of audio, the most basic mp3 device can hold 74 hours.

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Also Read: Greatest German Inventions that Changed the World