Heinz Nixdorf was born
on April 9, 1925, in Paderborn, Germany. He was the
oldest of five children and the son of Walter and Anne
Nixdorf. In 1939, Heinz graduated from the elementary
school with very good grades and attended school at
Koblenz, where he prepared to become a teacher.
In 1941, the ministry of culture in Berlin, allowed him
to attend the high school there. Nixdorf started at the
Reismann-High School in Paderborn. Nixdorf was an
extraordinarily talented student, with special skills in
mathematics and natural sciences with exceptional
abilities in analytical thinking. On several occasions,
Nixdorf was allowed to skip over certain math classes
because of his advanced ability.
In 1943, after his graduation from school, Nixdorf was
drafted into government work then into the air force
school in Ith, in Weserbergland. Nixdorf served in the
war and spent time in Czechoslovakia.
In 1947, Nixdorf began his physical studies at the
Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe University in Frankfurt where he
obtained a scholarship.
In 1948, Nixdorf got a job at the German sister
corporation of American company Remington Rand
Corporation. There he met Physicist Dr. Walter Sprick. A
data processing expert, Sprick, ran the development
laboratory of Remington Rand in Frankfurt-Rodelheim. The
42 year old physicist, was interested in automatic symbol
identification of electronic adding machines, as well as
computer technology. In 1949, Sprick had planned and
built the first German electronic calculator for the
Landesbrandkasse in Kiel.
After a few months the head of the firm stopped the
project. Nixdorf suggested to Sprick to found their own
company to build and sell the machines themselves.
Sprick, however, wanted to work for IBM instead.
At IBM, Sprick made a career as an inventor and developer
of electronic scanning machines. Sprick was referred to
by IBM as the father of automatic text readers and he
obtained two important patents.
Meanwhile, Nixdorf took the risk of freelancing alone. He
travelled with his motorcycle through Nordhein-Westfalen
and visited several corporations to present them with his
Nixdorf finally found an interest for his machines at the
Rheinishe-Westfalsche Electrical Power Station (RWE), in
Essen, the largest power supplier in Germany. The company
gave Nixdorf a grant for 30,000 DM for the development of
vacuum tube based calculators. Nixdorf also built
counting machines which could be connected to punched
In July 1952, Nixdorf founded the "Labor fur
Impulstechnik" (LFI). In September 1952, Nixdorf
hired his first worker, the well educated radio and
television technician Alfred Wiercoich. Their first
successful product was an electronic calculator which was
built on radio tube technology and used for bookkeeping
at the RWE power plant. After a few years, Nixdorf sold
his innovative products in Germany, and Europe, from
German and French office machine producers. Nixdorf built
the electronics for Bull, Wanderer and Exacta (Exacta
Nixdorf believed that the electronic calculating machine
was not merely a product for the needs of the corporation
but could have much more broad application in society.
Calculators and Computers
In 1953, Nixdorf
developed the ES 12 and ES 24 electronic calculators. By
1954, the LFI had expanded to ten technicians.
In 1957, Nixdorf's company completed development of the
Electronic Calculator EM 22, including all basic
calculating functions. The EM 22 came on the market in
1960 in a transistorized version as the Gamma 172.
Nixdorf obtained Wander Werker in Koln as a distributor
for his products, the Wanderer Werker also managed the
French company Bull, as well as their own office machine
production. Wanderer Werker became Nixdorf's major
customer for the next few years. In 1958, Nixdorf hired a
development engineer. Prior to this, Nixdorf had
developed all products himself.
During this same period, Nixdorf developed the electronic
multiplication unit for the Exacta-Continental
"Multitronic 6000" of which over 2,000 were
sold. In 1960, his company worked on the development of
the Gamma 172 and Gamma 322 computers. In 1962, they were
involved in the development and world-wide marketing of
desktop calculators with internal text printer (Wanderer
The Wanderer Logatronic (later called the Nixdorf
Universal Computer 820) was presented at the Wanderer
booth at the Hannover trade fair in 1965.
The Digitronic/Logitronic which was built on a component
basis was the first small computer which was based on
semiconductors. The Wanderer Werker, the Keinze-Apparate
Gmbh in Villingen and the Ruf-ZBuchhaltung started to
sell the Digitronic.
By the middle of 1970 there were more than 15,000 of the
"Nixdorf 820" sold.
In April 1968, Nixdorf bought his biggest customer, the
Wanderer Werke in Koln. The LFI took over the sales net
and production facilities of Wanderer Werke. The price
was 17.2 million DM.
In 1968, LFI became "Nixdorf Computer Inc."
(NCAG) Heinz Nixdorf changed the headquarters from Koln
to his home town in Paderborn.
His company went through various changes during the
1970's and 1980's and eventually became part of Siemens,
and was called Siemens-Nixdorf Information Systems AG.
corporation was formed in 1990 through the merger of the
Data Information Division of Siemens with the Nixdorf
Computer Company. Nixdorf was started in 1956 by Heinz
Nixdorf. Their first products included equipment for
accounting and census taking in Germany.
Nixdorf grew into $3.5 billion dollar computer company
with over 25,000 employees internationally. Economic
downtrends in the high tech industry in the 1980's
prompted the move towards the merger with Siemens.
Siemens-Nixdorf ranked first in European suppliers of
information technology products and services and ninth
worldwide, with revenues of over $7 billion.
Siemens-Nixdorf has corporate offices in Burlington,
Information on the
history of Dr. Heinz Nixdorf can be obtained from:
The Heinz Nixdorf
See also Klaus Kemper's
"Heinz Nixdorf: Eine Deutsche Karriere."