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High Five

5 life-changing inventions you probably didn't know were German

Germany is the land of inventors. Many visionary ideas were born and numerous breakthrough innovations developed here: coffee filter, adhesive tape, dynamo - even the computer.

Germany is the European champion of inventions. No country reports as many patents every year. In a worldwide comparison in 2015, Germany ranked third, behind the US and Japan. The world could hardly function without German inventions.

Too lazy for math

The first digital computer, for example, was built in Berlin by its inventor, German engineer Konrad Zuse. Having studied mechanical engineering, he had to solve countless mathematical tasks while constructing components for aircrafts in the 1930s. Saying that he was "too lazy for math," Zuse began to work on a machine that would relieve him of the task.

A ton of sheet metal parts

He worked on it for two years in his parents' living room. In 1937 the "Zuse 1" - Z1 for short - was finished: a heavy, huge machine with 30,000 metal parts. The size of a double bed, it made deafening noises. As long as the cranks, plates and bars did not interlock, the Z1 actually calculated correctly.

To make the machine less susceptible to interference, Zuse replaced the mechanical switching elements with electromechanical relays in the successor models - so the experimental model Z2 was followed by the fully functional Z3. Weighing a ton, it was as wide as a closet, the keyboard as big as a television. It could store only 64 numbers or words, but it was the world's first fully automated, programmable digital computer. The Z3 worked with binary codes, which any modern PC and Mac is based on today.

Misunderstood genius

The inventor was not celebrated worldwide for this success. During World War II, Zuse's calculators were destroyed by bombs. A reproduction of the first computer in the world, however, can be seen in the German Museum in Munich.

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