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In 1957 Siemens presented the world with the first mass-produced transistorized computer: The 2002 system. The first unit was delivered two years later, to the Technical University in Aachen. The importance of that milestone becomes clear when we realize that at the time, the world market in data processing was almost entirely controlled by the American company IBM and Europe had almost no importance as a home market. Mass production of the computer system led to widespread use of data processing for a vast range of applications.
“Normal” teletype machines developed by Siemens originally served for input and output. They were later supplemented with punched tape and punch cards. Fast printers and magnetic tape machines followed. Hybrid technology, introduced in 1962, with its miniaturized components and reduced circuit lengths, sped up computing speeds from 1,300 to 160,000 instructions per second. The 2002 system’s advanced technology kept it in production for almost ten years.
Based on the practical experience gained in producing and operating the 2002 system, in 1963 Siemens introduced a successor, the Computer 3003, with a higher operating speed than the 2002. It could process several user programs at a time and input and output devices could run simultaneously. A proprietary program saved users the effort of coordinating simultaneous operations of the input and output devices as well as controlling the various user programs.
The ability to interact with human users was a key point, because now input was not just reserved for experts. The main uses were in scientific and administrative tasks. That brought along a whole string of new applications – for example, two computers formed the core of an automated production line at the Thyssen Röhrenwerke AG tubing factory. And the University Library in Bochum also used a 3003 to manage book lending.
By 1965, the compatibility principle was already largely a reality in the new 4004 computer family. The family’s five systems – the 4004/15, 25, 35, 45 and 55 – offered a series of increasingly powerful models. Upward compatibility from one system to the next was guaranteed. There was even two-way programming compatibility between the 4004/35, 4004/45 and 4004/55. All of which yielded a great deal of flexibility in customer use – an important competitive advantage.
An extensive range of input and output devices, and especially the ability to connect with optical character readers, opened up broad usage opportunities for the 4004 family. Siemens’ development of the 3352 laser printer in 1976, for connection to the 4004 and 7000 systems, brought a new, non-mechanical technology into the field of computer data output. Laser technology raised printing speeds to as much as 70,000 characters per second – about 10 times the capacity of previous conventional fast printers.
As software evolved further into powerful programs like simulations of neural networks – which imitate the workings of the human brain – new developments, like “self-teaching” computers, came along. To date, though, the process of simulating learning on a workstation in particular had impeded rapid development of neural applications because each step of the learning process took so long.
Therefore “neural” computers were developed, which were better suited for simulations like these. In 1992 Siemens presented the world’s fastest neural computer, the “Synapse-1.” It was 8,000 times more powerful than a conventional workstation, and could “learn” as much in an hour as a neural network on a conventional computer could manage in a whole year.
Neural networks were generally used where conventional computing processes failed or were inadequate. Examples included real-time trend projections for interest rates and stock prices, managing complex industrial processes in environments like rolling mills, image, pattern and voice recognition, and other tasks based on a precise mathematical model.
An entirely new way of interacting with computers became a possibility with the SIVIT (Siemens Virtual Touchscreen) gestural computer of 1996 – the first computer that responded to a cue from a finger, without using a mouse, keyboard or screen.
Here touch panels, displays and screens were replaced by a projection from a beamer onto a smooth surface. Instead of a mouse or a keyboard, your hand was tracked with an infrared system, so that finger movements could be detected and converted to commands.
One possible application was inquiry terminals. The technology also helped make life easier for patients with multiple sclerosis, besides simplifying work in the operating room.
In 2014, a high-tech location for railroad data analysis opened at the Allach locomotive plant. The Mobility Data Services Center (MDS) makes use of the complex data stream from mobility systems to optimize operation.
The MDS brings together data streams from locomotives, high-speed trains and regional trains from Europe and beyond. The data, which serve experts for orientation, included more than standard variables like speed, brake performance or kilometer readings. They are also used to analyze compressor performance, the weight of attached cars and automated control processes. Track condition, slopes, gradients and even weather during operation are recorded, as is the timing of trains in the rail network.
All this information is used in Allach to develop a hitherto unique data-driven range of services for the rail sector – monitoring trains in real time, predicting component wear or failure and analyzing complex vehicle problems. This permits maximum availability and thus optimum utilization of train capacity.
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