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

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

Spielberg died of natural causes while 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 in the late 1950s while working for General Electric. The machine enabled computer scientists at Dartmouth College to develop the BASIC programming language, which would be essential to the rise of personal computers in the 1970s and 1980s.

“Dad explained how his computer was supposed to work, but the computer language back then was like Greek to me,” Steven Spielberg told General Electric’s publication GE Reports. “It all sounded very exciting to me, but it was out of my reach. ”

Later he understood.

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

Arnold Spielberg said of his son in a 2016 interview with GE Reports, “I tried to get him interested in engineering, but his heart was in the movies. At first I was disappointed, but then I saw how good he was at filmmaking.

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

“The story was a precursor to Steven’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, with aliens landing on Earth, and I created the special effects,” Spielberg told the Jewish Journal in 2012. “But while Steven asked my opinion, the ideas were still hers. “

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

His experiences during the war inspired his son’s 1998 film “Saving Private Ryan”.

Arnold Spielberg graduated from the University of Cincinnati and went to work in computer research for RCA, where he helped develop the first computerized point-of-sale cash register, before moving to GE.

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

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

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

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

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