Politehnica University Timisoara

MECIPT-1 - Electronic Computing Machine of the Timișoara Polytechnic Institute

 
 
MECIPT-1 - Electronic Computing Machine of the Timișoara Polytechnic Institute

60 years from the first operation

25 March 2021

 

 

 

 

 

60 years ago, on March 25, 1961, MECIPT-1 (Electronic Computing Machine of the Timișoara Polytechnic Institute) was put into operation in Timișoara, one of the emblems of the success and glory of the Timișoara Polytechnic, the first alpha numerical computer and the first in the university environment from Romania, the second in the country after the one from the Institute of Atomic Physics. The current epidemiological situation does not allow the organization of an anniversary, but the management of Politehnica University Timisoara intends to mark the moment on June 21, 2021, when we will celebrate 50 years since the emergence of the first 5 high schools of informatics.

The MECIPT-1 computer was built by mathematician Iosif Kaufmann and his cousin, engineer Wilhelm Löwenfeld. The documentation started in 1955, and the design in 1956. The construction was done at the Piarist High School, then the headquarters of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. After the realization of the MECIPT, the Computing Center was established, and the team was joined by Vasile Baltac and the mathematician Dan Farcaş. The processing speed of the computer made some programs take hours and even days. It worked at 50 operations per second, and operated with 15-bit instructions. The programs were introduced with perforated tape. An ordinary typewriter operated as a printer, with relays in the form of sticks mounted above the keys. The dome of the Bucharest exhibition pavilion (Romexpo), the Vidraru dam was designed, built in 1965 on the Argeş river, the new water network in Arad and a lot of buildings were designed, and the production at the Brewery was automated using MECIPT-1.

At the time, it was sensational when Erika Domokos wrote a machine translation program from English into Romanian. Due to the very small memory of MECIPT-1, the dictionary contained only 60-70 words and very few syntactic rules. On May 17, 1962, the first machine translation of a phrase was made on the spot, under the coordination of academician Grigore Moisil. Among the proposed ones, the first sentence translated correctly was "You explain the development of science and we help describe the examples", translated as "Dumneavoastră explicați dezvoltarea științei și noi ajutăm la descrierea exemplelor". The result gave the public the impression that entire books could be translated quickly and cheaply.

The computer designed in Timisoara, put into operation in 1961, at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the Polytechnic Institute, had 2000 electronic tubes, over 20,000 capacitors and resistors, 30 kilometers of wires and 100,000 solders. Overall, it consumed about 10 kW per hour. The memory was on a magnetic drum, and the storage capacity was 1,024 addresses. Compared to the first Romanian CIFA-1 computer, MECIPT-1 had a memory four times larger. The computer occupied an entire room and consisted of four two-meter-high panels.

MECIPT-1 is an important step in the history of computer technology in Romania, given that through it many generations of students and even university professors have learned how an electronic computer works and to program. Also, the premises for the establishment of the first specialization section in computers in Romania were created. The first class of engineers with the specialty of electronic computers graduated from Politehnica University Timisoara in 1966. It was indisputably the merit of Professor Alexandru Rogojan, who fought hard to establish the specialization, but no doubt the fame of MECIPT-1 as the first computer in higher education mattered much to the Ministry of Education for approval. The Computing Center operated by its graduates was the core of the future IT industry in the area.

The computer worked for about ten years. Between 1963–1966, on MECIPT-1, students from the polytechnic institutes in Timișoara, Bucharest, Cluj and Iași practiced. From the MECIPT programming school, valuable programmers have been noticed over the years, among which the university professor Ștefan Mărușter, Dan Farcaș, Gavril Gavrilescu, Alexandru Cicortaș and many others.

The creators of MECIPT -1, Wilhelm Lowenfeld and Iosif Kaufmann, were decorated by the country's president in 2003 with the highest rank - the Star of Romania in the rank of Knight - for their contribution to the development of computer technology in Romania.

At the initiative of Horia Gligor, a graduate of the 1968 class of the electronic computer specialization, strongly supported, both logistically and financially, by Dan Bedros, general manager of Alcatel Romania, who also started his career as a young graduate of the computer specialization in 1967, the MECIPT-1 computer was exhibited in a section of the Banat Museum, in 2001, and over the years, was restored.

Currently, MECIPT-1 has returned to Politehnica University Timișoara, being the central piece of the UPT Museum, along with other exhibits that highlight the pioneering role of the Timișoara Polytechnic in the development of computer technology in Romania.

 
 
 
 
 
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