Comprehensive coverage

Remember Vitzak - Google made a video about the beginning of computing in Israel

In honor of Prof. Aviezri Frankel's 84th birthday, which fell last Friday (June 7, 2013), a short film was produced with the help of Google telling the story of the Hoitzak, the first computer in Israel.

The first computer in Israel - WEIZAC. Photo: Weizmann Institute
The first computer in Israel - WEIZAC. Photo: Weizmann Institute

Israel is considered one of the leading centers of high-tech power in the world and is second only to Silicon Valley as a center for start-up companies, but this was not always the case. In honor of Prof. Aviezri Frankel's 84th birthday, a short film was produced with the help of Google that tells the story of Hoitzak, the first computer in Israel.

The short film was produced with the support of Google, as part of our ongoing Computing Heritage series.

The impetus to build a computer in Israel came from Prof. Haim Pekris, a promising geophysicist and mathematician from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, who conditioned his work at the Weizmann Institute on the development of the first computer in Israel. In order to comply with Pekris' request, a famous committee was established, whose members initially held opposing views. In particular, it was Albert Einstein who questioned whether there was any justification for building the computer in Israel, and whether the necessary resources to build it would be available. It took persuasion by another member of the committee, the mathematician and computer genius John von Neumann, until the project received the long-awaited green light.

The construction of the Weizmann (English acronym for "The Weizmann Institute's Automatic Calculator") began at the end of 1953 under the leadership of Prof. Pekris and Jerry Estrin, who was von Neumann's protégé and arrived in Israel armed with blueprints, based on the existing computer in the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University Princeton. Through the publication of a job ad, a small team of engineers and technicians was assembled, including Aviezri Frankel.

A lot of sophistication is required from the team to collect the required parts. Some were imported but others were sophisticated adaptations, such as thin copper strips that came from a small bicycle parts store! Despite the obstacles, progress was consistent and most of the pieces were in place by the time Estrin returned to the US, 15 months later.

Weitzek performed his first calculation in October 1955 and was soon in demand by many Israeli scientists. It operated until the end of 1963 - which will be 50 years old this year, and is currently located in the Zeskind building at the Weizmann Institute of Science as a fitting monument to the place where computing in Israel began.

According to Yossi Matias, senior engineering director and manager of Google's R&D center in Israel: "I have fond memories of passing by Hoitzek every day when I was studying at the Weizmann Institute, where I was also given the privilege to study in Prof. Frankel's class. With the release of this short film, I am happy to learn more from him about such an important chapter in the history of Israeli tech."

The video produced with the help of Google on the occasion of Prof. Aviezri Frankel's 84th birthday.

The article is based on materials provided by the Google-Israel spokesperson

One response

  1. You were cast in us before the word computer was invented. That's why they called him
    "Electronic brain".

    As for John von Neumann. He is Jewish despite his German name. His father changed his name to a German name so that his Jewishness would not hinder his advancement in Christian society, it seems to me that his father was a banker in Germany or Switzerland. John von Neumann is considered by many to be the greatest mathematician of the twentieth century. He was very versatile, before inventing the computer he was on the team that developed the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos. In the last stages of his life, I think he was 56, he was involved in mathematical models related to biology.

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.