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Jonathan Erickson

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Stop #1, Munich. Made It

October 11, 2008

I rolled into Munich this morning on the S1 train from the airport, looking forward to public transportation but instead ran smack dab into the Munich Marathon, which means that streets were blocked off and the trams shut down. Oh well, I could have rented a bicycle, but I'm too lazy for that, even though Munich is a bicycle kind of town. I would have rented a motor scooter, but Munich doesn't appear to be a motor scooter burg. Except for those three guys on Vespas who about took me out when I had a the rightaway to cross.

Problems with transportation notwithstanding, I didn't waste any time seeing what sights I could. Contrary to rumors, Augustiner's Beer Hall wasn't my first stop. Okay, I admit it was my second stop, but it was lunchtime and that sausage and saurkraut was pretty doggone good. Not to mention what the beer hall is really famous for.

No my first stop was the Deutsches Museum , a marvelous collection that's considered the world's largest museum of technology and engineering. It has an outstanding exhibit of cryptography devices, including an Enigma encoding machine from World War II, and amazing mechanical avatars, among other computer-related exhibits. For example, on exhibit is a UNIVAC 1 -- one of 49 ever built. One of the reasons so few were built is that the computer sold for more than $1 million each and weighed 19 tons. (Now tell me again how heavy your laptop is?) The UNIVAC 1's CPU had over 975,000 individual components. Overall, the computer had more than 5600 vacuum tubes, 18,000 diodes, and 300 relays. This particular UNIVAC 1 was operational from 1956 until 1963.

Then there was the Zuse KG Model 24, a computer I've heard about but never thought I'd see. This machine, originally named the V4, as started in 1942 as a result of good experiences with the Z3, and was finished in 1945, and presented to the museum in 1960. The Zuse 24 used binary floating-point numbers with 23-bit mantissa,  6-bit exponent and 1 sign bit for the exponent, giving a word length of 23 bits. It has two simultaneouis arithmetic units for mantissa and exponent, parallel addition. Bests the four basic arthmetic operations, the functions implemented use squaring, extraction of square roots, and multiplication by different constants. It supported mechanical main storage for 64 words (expandable to 500 words). Data and program input was via operator panel or film reader; static program with a maximum of two loops.

In 1950 the system was enhanced which increased average processing times to 30 operations per minute. Now tell me again about your slow laptop.

If or when you're in Munich, don't miss the Deutsches Museum. And be prepared to spend more than one day there. It's worth it. In the meantime, it's back to work for me, just in case the boss happens to be reading this.

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