A polish Bill Gates: Jacek Karpiński


Jacek Karpiński (Turin 9 April 1927 – Wrocław, Poland21 February 2010) was a Polish pioneer in computer engineering and computer science.

During WW2 he was a soldier of Batalion Zośka of Polish Home Army, awarded multiple times with a Cross of Valour. Among the others he took a part in Operation Kutschera (intelligence) and Warsaw Uprising when he was heavily wounded.

Later he became a developer of one of the first machine learning algorithms, techniques for character and image recognition.

After receiving a UNESCO award in 1960, he studied for 2 years at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

In 1971 he designed one of the first minicomputers, the K-202. Because of the policy on computer development in the People’s Republic of Poland, belonging to the Comecon that time, K-202 was never mass-produced. Karpiński later became a pig farmer, and in 1981, after receiving a passport, emigrated to Switzerland.

He also founded the Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence of the Polish Academy of Sciences in the early 1960s.



AKAT-1, was a Polish made analog computer made in the 1960’s.

“Analog Computers versus Digital Computers Analog Computer: There are two distinct families of computing device available to us today, the all pervasive digital computer and almost forgotten analog computer. These two types of computer operate on quite different principles. An analog computer is a form of computer that uses continuous physical phenomena such as electrical, mechanical, or hydraulic quantities to model the problem being solved. Illustration: (right) Polish analog computer AKAT-1 Mechanism of an Analog Computer: In analog computers, computations are often performed by using properties of electrical resistance, voltages and so on. Analog computers do not have the ability of digital computers to store data in large quantities, nor do they have the comprehensive logical facilities afforded by programming digital machines. And although the arithmetic functions performed by the computing units are more complex in analog machines than in the digital systems, the cost of the hardware required to provide a high degree of accuracy in an analog machine is often prohibitive. Some analog machines are designed for specific applications, but most electrical and electronic analog computers provide a number of different computing devices which can be connected together via a plug board to provide different methods of operation for specified problems. The use of electrical properties in analog computers means that calculations are normally performed in real time (or faster), at a significant fraction of the speed of light, without the relatively large calculation delays of digital computers. This property allows certain useful calculations that are comparatively “difficult” for digital computers to perform, for example numerical integration. Analog computers can integrate a voltage waveform, usually by means of a capacitor, which accumulates charge over time. Any physical process which models some computation can be interpreted as an analog computer.”

Answers to Questions in the Question Bank (Class Notes 2010)

Author: Prof. Max William DCosta (max.dcosta77@gmail.com)

Compiled on: July 15, 2010 by Prof. Max D’Costa @ MET SOM Page 136 of 138 (Ans 95)


The AKAT-1 was the world’s first transistor differential analyzer, constructed by Jacek Karpiński at the Polish Academy of Science’s Institute of Automatics in 1959. It was designed to solve systems of differential equations and modeling processes.

Warsaw, 1958. The design team of the whole group AKAT-1. Photo from “Polska”

See also: http://tabletmag.com/scroll/129988/did-poland-invent-the-pc


Built in 1971, the K-202 was one of the first minicomputers.

Having 16-bit word, up to 8MB addressable memory range,

modular architecture and priced at around $3000, it was one of the best of its times.
karpinski k202

The K-202 was capable of running about one million operations per second; however, its instruction set was not well suited to the typical tasks, making practical performance somewhat lower. Although the communist world was decades behind the West in integrated circuit manufacture, the export of which was (and still is) strictly controlled. Despite this, apparently, remarkable performance and low price there was no commercial interest from anywhere in the world. K-202 claimed to be the first mini-computer which used the paging technique, providing 8 MB of virtual memory; however, what its constructors called paging was in fact a simple segmentation. Furthermore, the advertised upper limit of 8MB of memory was practically unreachable due to signal propagation delays, 144 KB being the largest available configuration. K-202 was based on small- and medium-scale integrated circuits.

  • Multiprogramming
  • Multiprocessing
  • 16-bit word
  • More than 90 instructions
  • 7 universal registers
  • 16 ways of determining argument
  • Operating memory of up to 4 million words
  • Direct addressing of up to 64k words
  • Autonomic data exchange with operating memories at the speed of 16 Mbit/s [note: i.e. 1M words/s]
  • Implementation method – TTL/MSI integrated circuits
  • Memory cycle 0.7 μs
  • Processing speed of 1 million operations/second




[1] “In the paging memory-management scheme, the operating system retrieves data from secondary storage in same-size blocks called pages. The main advantage of paging over memory segmentation is that it allows the physical address space of a process to be noncontiguous. Before paging came into use, systems had to fit whole programs into storage contiguously, which caused various storage and fragmentation problems.”From Belzer, Jack; Holzman, Albert G.; Kent, Allen, eds. (1981). “Virtual memory systems”. Encyclopedia of computer science and technology





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