Remembering computer pioneer Arnold Spielberg

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Computer engineer and the father of the famous filmmaker Steven Spielberg, Arnold Spielberg, has passed away from natural causes at the age of 103.

Spielberg was an electrical engineer known for designing the GE-200 series of mainframe computers at General Electric. He is best known for collaborating on a time-sharing operating system, the GE-225, in the early 1960s, enabling users to interface with one computer to solve simple problems. 

“Unlike the previous computers, the GE-225 — as it was called — was a business computer. It stored its own software, handling the input and output of data. We relocated the factory to Phoenix and sold it within GE as well as to the external market. GE used them for general business applications and some scientific work, but mostly to do business processing. I was in charge of the small-computer-systems group, whose job it was to design the circuits, design the logic, plan the system and put it all together,” Spielberg said in an interview with GE Reports in 2016.

Spielberg was also responsible for designs that computer scientists from Dartmouth College later used to write the BASIC programming language.

Spielberg told GE Reports his interest in electricity came from an early age of playing with magnets and radio waves. “I got my first crystal radio set when I was 9. It’s basically a diode that can detect radio waves, and I played around with it. But I never could get it working until a radio repairman who lived next door helped me set it up,” he said. 

Spielberg also went on to help his son Steven produce Firelight, inspired Saving Private Ryan, and worked on Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, among other Hollywood blockbusters. 

He also won the IEEE Computer Pioneer Award in 2006 for real-time data acquisition and recording. 

Spielberg is survived by his children Steven Spielberg, Anne Spielberg, Sue Spielberg, Nancy Spielberg as well as 4 stepchildren, 11 grandchildren, 8 great grandchildren, and countless cousins, nieces and nephews. 

“The name Spielberg brings to mind a movie magician whose blockbusters changed storytelling forever. But Steven Spielberg isn’t the first disruptor in the family. His father, Arnold… helped mold computing — a field whose rise and dominance over all areas of life has no peer in the history of mankind,” GE Reports wrote

 

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