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Digital Culture

How the design of computers evolved over 75 years

On May 12, 1941, 75 years ago, the world's first computer was released: The legendary Z3 was the ultra heavy and bulky grandfather of the Apple Watch. Revisit the vintage models of the machine that has changed our lives.

The computer has become an integral part of everyday life. Whether you work in art, in media, in scientific research or medicine, computer technology has influenced every career and every life. Without it, nothing would function.
The earliest computers were still referred to as calculating machines but looked much bigger than the calculators we know today - as large as an office cupboard - and could only work with numbers. Punch cards were used to do simple calculations which were then imprinted using celluloid from films.
In 1941, Konrad Zuse built the world's first computer, the Z3; a short time later, he released the Z4, which could do quite a bit more than its predecessor. From 1950 to 1955, the Z4 was used as a central processor at the Technical University in Zurich.
The computer mouse was added in the 1960s as a prototype. It, along with many other original computers, are now design pieces in museums around the world.
Using a binary number system, the initial computer has served as a foundation for all computers to date; even music, films, art and colors are saved as binary number codes - a series of ones and zeroes.
Artists are especially interested in the design of the original computers. The "Father of Video Art," Nam June Paik often works with video installations supported by computers. Street artist Bansky used an image of Apple founder Steve Jobs in one of his most famous graffiti murals.
Since its inception, the computer has altered the landscape of our lives, ushering in a digital age that is now part of art history.

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