Computer pioneer Arnold Spielberg, Steven’s father, dies at 103

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Arnold Spielberg, father of filmmaker Steven Spielberg and an innovative engineer whose work helped make the personal computer possible, has died at 103.

Spielberg died of natural causes while being surrounded by his family in Los Angeles on Tuesday, according to a statement from his four children.

Spielberg and Charles Propster designed the GE-225 mainframe computer in the late 1950’s while working for General Electric. The machine allowed computer scientists at Dartmouth College to develop the programming language BASIC, which would be essential to the rise of personal computers in the 1970s and 1980s.

“Dad explained how his computer was expected to perform, but the language of computer science in those days was to me like Greek,” Steven Spielberg told the publication of General Electric GE Reports.. “It all seemed very exciting, but it was very out of my reach.”

Later he understood.

“When I look at a PlayStation, when I look at a mobile phone – from the smallest calculator to an iPad – I look at my father and I say, ‘My father and a team of geniuses started that,'” Spielberg said in the family statement. ,

Arnold Spielberg said of his son in an interview in 2016 with GE Reports, ‘I tried to get him interested in technology, but his heart was in movies. At first I was disappointed, but then I saw how good he was at making movies. ”

Arnold helped Steven produce his first full-length film, “Firelight,” made in 1963 when the novice director was 16.

“The story was a forerunner of Steven’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ with aliens landing on Earth, and I built the special effects,” Spielberg told the Jewish Journal in 2012. “But while Steven would ask for my advice, the ideas were always his own.”

The son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, Arnold Spielberg was born in Cincinnati in 1917. He was obsessed with gadgetry from the beginning, built his own crystal radio at the age of 9 and a hammer radio at 15, and developed skills he developed would use in World War II as a radio operator and chief communications officer for the 490th Bomb Squadron, also known as the “Burma Bridge Busters.”

His experiences during the war were part of the inspiration for his son’s 1998 film “Saving Private Ryan”.

Arnold Spielberg graduated from the University of Cincinnati and went on to work in computer research for RCA, where he assisted in the development of the first point of sale automated cash register, before moving on to GE.

Late in life he worked on the archival technology used by the USC Shoah Foundation, an organization founded by his son to preserve personal histories of the Holocaust.

Steven Spielberg, 73, was the firstborn child of Arnold Spielberg. He also had three daughters: screenwriter Anne Spielberg, producer Nancy Spielberg and marketing manager Sue Spielberg.

All four children were with his first wife, Leah Spielberg Adler, who died in 2017. The two divorced in 1965, and the problems that brought the split for Steven Spielberg were explored in his 1982 film, “ET ”

Arnold Spielberg’s third wife, Bernice Colner Spielberg, died in 2016.