IT Center Blog

From Cog Wheels to High Technology

November 22nd, 2023 | by

Source: Own illustration

The beginnings of IT go back a long way. It all started with a calculating machine. Today, we’re way beyond that. But how did we get there? This article is about the long but successful journey of IT. We’ll tell you about the milestones in the history of IT and of the IT Center.  


How It All Began

The history of IT began a long time ago with the development of the first calculating machine. In 1623, Wilhelm Schickard created a mechanical device with gears that could perform simple mathematical calculations. 

Schickard’s machine consists of a lower part with a gear train and automatic tens transition. This part is responsible for addition and subtraction. A second, upper part of the calculating machine is responsible for multiplication and division and consists of a modification of Napier’s rods in the form of six rotating cylinders. Although Schickard’s calculating machine was not widely used, it laid the foundation of upcoming technological advances. 


The Birth of the Digital Age

A defining moment in the history of IT is the introduction of the first computer in the modern sense. Konrad Zuse, a German engineer, presents the Z3 computer in 1941. The Z3 is the first functional and digitally program-controlled computer and allows calculations using punched cards.  However, we start quite small: The memory capacity is 64 words, calculating a division or multiplication takes three seconds, and all this with the size of a wardrobe.   

In 1958, a Z22 is the first large-scale computing machine at RWTH Aachen University. It is capable of 30 operations per second. After only a short time, the next machines follow and space quickly becomes tight. And so, on September 5, 1963, the move to Seffenter Weg 23 takes place, marking the birth of the Computer Center – today’s IT Center.    


Chances for Students

But the innovations don’t stop there.  

Under the leadership of Professor Josef Dietrich Haupt, the Computer Investment Program (CIP) was initiated in the mid-1980s. The program was set up by the German federal and state governments to facilitate the financing of microcomputers for teaching purposes.  

This allows students throughout the university to work on computers at so-called CIP pools, which are computer labs set up through the CIP at the university.  At that time, computers are usually available only to authorized persons and occasionally to students in closed courses. The newly established workstations open up new possibilities for students who do not have their own computers.  As a counterpart, the WAP, Wissenschaftler-Arbeitsplatz-Programm (Scientist Workplace Program) follows in 1990, in which workstation computers for scientists are financed by the federal and state governments. 


On the Pulse of Time

Computerraum IT Center

Source: Own picture

The IT Center has continuously improved over the years. With state-of-the-art technology and advanced solutions, the IT Center is an important support for students, researchers and employees. 

Here you find a wide range of services and resources, including high-performance computing, cloud computing, network solutions, cybersecurity and data management. We support research projects, enable complex computing, and foster innovation across a wide range of disciplines. The IT Center works closely with leaders in industry and research to explore and apply the latest techniques and technology.  On a regular basis, the IT Center offers training, workshops, and events to help you develop your knowledge and skills in IT.   

Feel free to check out our Blog to make sure you don’t miss any new upcoming events. 

The story of IT is far from over and we can be very excited about what the future of IT will bring. One thing is for sure, the IT Center will be at the forefront! 


Responsible for the content of this article is Jula Hegeler.

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