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Konrad Zuse (1994) (xn--plankalkl-x9a.de)
82 points by tmalsburg2 9 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 44 comments

> I started in 1934, [... ] At that time, the computing industry was limited to mechanical calculators using the decimal system.

That seems a bit biased toward discrete systems. Engineers and scientists of the time used mechanical and (later) electric analog computers, and they were more powerful than the new discrete systems, for most purposes. For example: Helmut Hoelzer’s Fully Electronic Analog Computer used in the German V2 (A4) rockets https://www.cdvandt.org/Hoelzer%20V4.pdf (text in German, but has some pictures and diagrams)

See Abbildung 10 (p16) for an amazingly analog way to calculate f(y(t))

> Some have harsh words for this man of renown / But some think our attitude / Should be one of gratitude —TAL

this is the most astonishing thing I have read in a long time and I am CS not electrical engineering, so I have no idea what these drawings mean. I speak german, but I hope something works to translate this easily, as it is absolutely crazy. I did not know something like this was possible back then.

It is astonishing how advanced the world was back then...if it wasn't for this use though

I would say understanding of the paper depends more on having an electrical engineering degree than a CS degree. The diagrams look to be electrical circuits and signal diagrams (I am not sure what is the correct term but for example 'Abb. 10a' in the article) mostly.

Check out the Analog Museum https://www.analogmuseum.org/

In particular this (German) presentation: https://www.analogmuseum.org/library/hamburg_hoelzer.pdf

Heh. If this guy was around today he would be making epic Factorio builds.

I guess base-10 is still "digital", in that it works with digits.

remember bits are binary digits

I guess a decimal digit would be a dit

digital is simply discrete, as opposed to analog / continuous

  late Middle English: from Latin digitus ‘finger, toe’; digit (sense 1) arose from the practice of counting on the fingers.
"Digit" is the decimal digit.

A bit biased, as opposed to a smidgen? :P

If you find this interesting and find yourself in Berlin with a bit of free time, the Deutsche Techniksmuseum there has a great exhibit on Zuse, including replicas, actual units of later computers, design drawings, storage units... well worth your time (as is the rest of the museum).

I found out about Zuse because I was tasked with giving a presentation about an important German, when I was taking German classes at the Goethe Institut. Probably bored the hell out of everyone listening, but it was a bit of an eye opener as he's not so commonly discussed.

My brain needed some time to process the "Last updated 94/09/30" at the end. Oh, he means 1994!

Y/M/D, the only sane way to spell dates.

Too bad it's only a 2 digit year.

I'd argue ISO 8601 (YYYY-MM-DD) is superior still because it is much more difficult to confuse for etiher DD/MM/YYYY or MM/DD/YYYY.

I can stomach any separator as long as the order is right ;)


That's padding strings of known length at the demarcation points, not inserting a separator to demarcate strings of unknown length.

Strings of unknown length were never in play. The comment was specifically about a separator in a date, which has only 2 potential conventional lengths depending on if you're using a 2 or 4 digit year.

Length can to 2 or 4, month can be 1 or 2, day can be 1 or 2. Using separators makes that easily parseable by both humans and machines, whereas using 0s is just redundant when used on fixed-width strings or potentially confusing when used on variable-width strings.

The comment I replied to was about the slashes in 94/09/30 vs iso 8601.

Zero padding was already present in both of these

Bit hard to digest for me. But if you have a column of dates in this format it will suddenly become more legible.





The zero separators align now.

If you speak German there are decent quality interviews of him from the 80s on YouTube.


Shameless plug: if you are interested in relay processors, check out mine: https://github.com/artemonster/relay-cpu

Related. Others?

User Manual for the Zuse Z4 Discovered (2020) - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=39124291 - Jan 2024 (4 comments)

Plankalkül - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=35053402 - March 2023 (47 comments)

Reconstruction of mechanical logic gates and memory element of the Zuse Z1 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32169178 - July 2022 (2 comments)

The “Plankalkül” of Konrad Zuse: The first high level programming language - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26593656 - March 2021 (1 comment)

Blocks Courtesy of Konrad Zuse (2014) - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25712727 - Jan 2021 (10 comments)

The long lost manual for the Zuse Z4 has been found - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24605150 - Sept 2020 (61 comments)

Discovery: User Manual of the Zuse Z4 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24573125 - Sept 2020 (14 comments)

Plankalkül: The First High-Level Programming Language and Its Implementation - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23364898 - May 2020 (1 comment)

Antedating “datatype” all the way to Plankalkül (2017) - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18975279 - Jan 2019 (2 comments)

Calculating Space by Konrad Zuse (1969) [pdf] - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18325689 - Oct 2018 (1 comment)

Blocks Courtesy of Konrad Zuse (2014) - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17724173 - Aug 2018 (3 comments)

Konrad Zuse and the digital revolution he started 75 years ago - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11682343 - May 2016 (53 comments)

Plankalkül - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10909784 - Jan 2016 (14 comments)

Konrad Zuse Internet Archive - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10377271 - Oct 2015 (1 comment)

The Z1: Architecture and Algorithms of Konrad Zuse's First Computer (2014) [pdf] - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10107955 - Aug 2015 (5 comments)

Konrad Zuse: Nearly the German Turing - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9199500 - March 2015 (33 comments)

Computers During World War Two: Konrad Zuse - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3282085 - Nov 2011 (7 comments)

100th anniversary of Konrad Zuse: creator of the first programming language - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1451542 - June 2010 (21 comments)

Any reason for the strange submitted url if it redirects to http://www.xn--plankalkl-x9a.de/?

Edit: Looks like HN auto changes it to that. http:// www. plankalkül .de/ Is it because of the ü?

yes, ü requires punycode encoding. The xn-- prefix indicates that.

And because there are way too many ways to confuse people with similar looking characters, the domains can be typed in and converted appropriately, but some webbrowsers ensure that you notice if something is off with www.bаnkofamerica. com (www.xn--bnkofamerica-x9j. com)

There has to be a better way, this is in no way beneficial to normal people. This just makes it even worse from a UX standpoint.

There are a bunch of ideas, like giving different unicode codepoints groups different background colors. That way, а and a show up differently colored.

It's more a UX problem than a technical one, so simple "why not X?" technical proposals tend to be incomplete.

I believe it's also a regulatory problem. Plankalkül on a German site makes perfect sense, because that is a German word. But then there would be millions of ways to form domains that serve no other purpose than misleading the users. So registrars would need to make sure that all letters belong to the same script and make sense i the language(s) native to the domain.

But then this is the internet and greedy and incompetent registrars are a fact, so I am not sure this will ever happen.

As for the UX, maybe displaying a little flag or similar emoji indicating what script it is. And showing a big warning or completely blocking the site of the user has not accepted the script in question. That is for the whole domain, mixing scripts in a single domain should be massively limited and requires other indicators in foreground or background. Also a problem for the color blind.

If you have a modern OS or browser it should show "http://www.xn--plankalkl-x9a.de" in the URL field.

Windows 11, Firefox. Doing the same on my NixOS install with Firefox (showing the proper url). Seems like a regression if "modern" systems are supposed to be showing that eyesore of a URL, which I get could be a phishing safety thing, but annoying to say the least.

I get http://www.xn--plankalkl-x9a.de/ in my Firefox (Mac OS) address bar. I think it's modern? I mean I let it auto update.

Tbh I like the xn-- spelling more, it makes it more mysterious.

I guess it's a FF thing...

Waaaait. I'm pretty sure I pasted the correct spelling and HN changed it. Let's try again:


I see plankalkul with the umlaut as I'm writing. Let's see what's displayed when I post the comment...

Although HN has translated the umlauted url to punycode for display, it uses the original umlauted url in the anchor's href attribute. Firefox is happy with the href in either format.


Just the name without url. Let's see how this translates.

@pg please fix

Mac OS, Safari, German locale shows plankalkül.de – as it should be. Frankly I would be rather irritated if not.

This phone runs a rather old FF browser and it works (Umlaut shown) in the address bar. But HN embedded links are shown as raw punycode. Is that a browser or a web page issue?

HN "intentionally" breaks all unicode URLs as HN approaches the tradeoff between i18n and confusability from a very US-centric PoV

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