Anthropocene Milestones No. 19: Zuse Z4 - Benedikt Rohlmann

Zuse Z4

In 1935 Konrad Zuse began working for the Henschel Flugzeugwerke, an arms manufacturer for Nazi Germany, in Berlin-Schönefeld, where he developed his Z3 and Z4 electromechanical computers. Although Zuse was not a member of the Nazi Party, some of its high-ranking members supported and financed his work. 

Technical innovations are not always neutral and are often tied to political, economic and social developments. Because technological innovations often serve more than one purpose, these can result in unforeseen side effects. It is important to carefully consider the long-term consequences of technological development on complex systems such as the climate, the Earth, or humans before implementing them.


Zuse Z4

Text and images by Benedikt Rohlmann
University of the Arts (UdK), Berlin

It all works out
1935: Henschel Flugzeugwerke
"I still need the statistical calculations for the wings..."
"We're working on it. But it will take a while..."



'These eternally repetitive calculations are such a waste of time! This should be done by a machine...'


1938: In his parents' living room, Konrad Zuse is working on the construction of his first computer, the Z1.


1939: Completion of the Z2. It functions with 200 electromagnetic relays and can perform basic arithmetic.


1941: Completion of the Z3. It uses around 2,000 telephone relays, is programmable, calculates in the binary system, and can store results.


1945: Konrad Zuse presents the Z4, which operates technically like the Z3, but is substantially more efficient.


2014: "My computer is already a million times stronger than the Z4. What will it be like in another 70 years?"


Author's commets

My father is a computer scientist, so we have had a computer at home for as long as I can remember. He told me about Konrad Zuse's first giant computer that filled an entire room. Due to my earlier fascination and because it is impossible to imagine my life today without a computer, I was especially interested in researching on this topic and found it a useful and educational exercise.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Anthropocene Milestones: Illustrating the Path to the Age of Humans

Thirty eight-panel comic strips illustrate important milestones that have paved the way to a new geological “age of humans” called the Anthropocene. Every week we will present one story, which will be displayed alongside the milestone objects at the Deutsches Museum in the special exhibition in December 2014, in cooperation with the Rachel Carson Center (RCC), called "Welcome to the Anthropocene - The Earth in Our Hands," the world’s first exhibition on the exciting concept of the Anthropocene.

Find out more about this project. 

by Alexandra Hamann, Reinhold Leinfelder, Helmuth Trischler, and Henning Wagenbreth 

Link to:

Project description: “Anthropocene Milestones: Illustrating the Path to the Age of Humans

Previously published comic strips:
Anthropocene Milestones No. 1: Altamira Cave - Marcus Gruber
Anthropocene Milestones No. 2: Robotics - Daniela David-Spickermann
Anthropocene Milestones No. 3: The steam engine - Marina Porras Chassignet
​Anthropocene Milestones No. 4: Biotechnology - Till Lukat
Anthropocene Milestones No. 5: Hertz: Electromagnetic waves - Csenge Kindli
Anthropocene Milestones No. 6: A 300 mass tourism - Riikka Laakso
Anthropocene Milestones No. 7: Permanent disposal of nuclear waste - Nika Korniyenko
Anthropocene Milestones No. 8: Waste - Leo Koppelkamm
Anthropocene Milestones No. 9: The Bessemer process - Klára Zahrádková 
Anthropocene Milestones No. 10: X-rays - René Thoms
Anthropocene Milestones No. 11: Solar Energy - Sophie Artz
Anthropocene Milestones No. 12: The Diesel engine - Bastian Wienecke
Anthropocene Milestones No. 13: Walchensee Hydorelectric Power Station - Dennis Gärtner
Anthropocene Milestones No. 14: Oceanography - Wyn Tiedmers
Anthropocene Milestones No. 15: Linotype - Eric Reh
Anthropocene Milestones No. 16: Scanning tunneling microscope - Martha Burger
Anthropocene Milestones No. 17: Telephone - Anders Emil Sommerfeldt
Anthropocene Milestones No. 18: Apollo mission - Jacqueline Pulsack
Anthropocene Milestones No. 19: Zuse Z4 - Benedikt Rohlmann