Heinz Nixdorf and the Nixdorf Computer AG

by Margret Amedick  and Ulf Hashagen


Heinz NixdorfIn the 1970`s the name of Heinz Nixdorf (1925-1986) became a symbol for the successful and innovative management in the German computing industry. He led his company, founded in 1952, to the biggest German computing company beside Siemens. His reputation of being an entrepreneur and manager was well known, even for the American Business-Magazine "Fortune“ he was the most capable manager of Europe.

  In 1951, the impoverished student of physics Heinz Nixdorf was employed at the electronics department of Remington Rand in Frankfurt, where he met the head of the laboratory, Walter Sprick, and assisted him in developing an electronic calculating device. As the development was stopped in 1952, Heinz Nixdorf founded his own company, the "Labor für Impulstechnik“, in order to produce electronic calculators based on the patents of Walter Sprick.

Heinz Nixdorf’s first customer was the energy supply company RWE in Essen. They ordered an electronic calculator and provided Nixdorf with funds and a workroom for his developments. This calculator was meant to be connected to a Remington Rand tabulating machine for the calculation of electricity prices.

In the beginning, the contact with "Exacta“ in Cologne (later renamed as Wanderer-Werke AG), a manufacturer of office machines, was most important for the "Labor für Impulstechnik“. Starting in 1954, Heinz Nixdorf built electronic multiplication units (ES and EM) for the "Bull-punchcard machines“ distributed by "Wanderer“. From 1958 onwards he produced electronic multiplcation units for the electro-mechanical accounting machine "Wanderer Multitronic 6000“, and since 1962, for "Wanderer“ as well, one of the first electronic desktop calculators with a printing facility (Conti). The breakthrough as a computer manufacturer was made possible for Heinz Nixdorf with the development of the "Logatronic“, a freely programmable mini-computer for invoicing  developed by Otto Müller in 1964.

The enormous commercial success of the "Logotronic“ allowed him to buy out the "Wanderer-Werke“ in 1968,  which until then was nearly his only customer. In the same year he renamed his company to Nixdorf Computer AG (NCAG) and relocated it to his hometown Paderborn.

The efficent distribution network of the former "Wanderer“ company, which was systematically expanded in the following, allowed Heinz Nixdorf the marketing of his products under his own name. His most successful products of the 1970`s was the "Nixdorf 820“, which was an improved development of the "Logotronic“ and its follower the "Nixdorf 8870“, which, with its special peripherals was very successfully marketed for banks and cash register systems. With the "820“ system,  NCAG had created a mini-computer which Nixdorf 820 1968was of use in both business and administrative areas, and while inexpensive it could be afforded by smaller companies and firms. So Nixdorf became a perfect example of what is known in Germany as "Mittlere Datentechnik (MDT)“.

At the time of the "Wanderer“ companies takeover in 1968 the NCAG had 1.800 employees and an annual turnover of 105 Million DM. With annual increases in turnover of more than 20 %, the NCAG became the fifth-largest computer manufacturer of Europe by the middle of the 1980’s.

As Heinz Nixdorf died in 1986, the company had production plants in 7 locations, in Germany, Ireland, Spain, the United States and Singapore and owned subsidiary companies in 44 countries all over the world. With 26.000 employees worldwide the NCAG achieved a turnover of 4.5 Billion DM.

In 1988 the company was in a crisis due to aging products and mismanagement. High losses forced the NCAG to look for a partner. In 1990, Siemens took over the majority of shares in the NCAG, merged it with its own computer department and renamed it Siemens Nixdorf Informationsystems AG (SNI). Since 1992 SNI is a 100% subsidiary company of Siemens with its own rights.           


1984. "Europe`s ablest managers“, Fortune International, July 9, 1984: 16 - 27

1985. Gee, Jack, "Over here or over there, Nixdorf scraps with IBM“, Electronic business,   April 1, 1985: 51 -  60      

1986. KEMPER; K., "Heinz Nixdorf. Eine deutsche Karriere.“ Landsberg/Lech, Verlag  Moderne Industrie.

1986. Nixdorf, H., "Der technologische Wandel und die Gefahr der Arbeitslosigkeit“, in:  Fritsch, U.,  "Die neue Dimension“, Düsseldorf/Wien, Verlag Eccon  

1995. Grunenberg, N., "Heinz Nixdorf“, in: Weimer, W., "Kapitäne des Kapitals“, Frankfurt/Main, Verlag Suhrkamp


Heinz Nixdorf
Walter Sprick
Labor für Impulstechnik
Wanderer-Werke AG
Otto Müller
Nixdorf Computer AG
Nixdorf 820
Nixdorf 8870
Siemens Nixdorf Informationssysteme AG


French translation made by Vicky Rotarova.
Portuguese  translation made by Artur Weber.

Copyright © Margret Amedick - April 01, 1998.



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