Even in the second half of the 20th century the location of industry owed much to the enterprise of individuals, and the concentration of computer companies in Paderborn is largely due to Heinz Nixdorf (1925-86) who happened to be born in the city. His education was interrupted by military service from the age of 17, but he studied physics at the University of Frankfurt between 1947 and 1950, and encountered computers for the first time when working, after graduation, for Remington Rand. He set up a company in Paderborn in 1952, at first contracting to make computers for others. In 1964 he began to manufacture a computer of his own design, the System 820. The company prospered, specialised in banking services and point-of-sale systems, became the market leader in Germany during the 1970s, and employed 25,500 people in 44 countries at the time of Nixdorf’s death in 1986. It was acquired by the Siemens corporation in 1990, and as Wincor-Nixdorf AG still has its headquarters in Paderborn.
The Heinz Nixdorf Museum is claimed to be the world’s largest museum of computers, although that claim is contested. It portrays with more than two thousand artefacts the history of communications technology over 5,000 years, since writing on clay tablets began in Mesopotamia, but the principal emphasis is on the development of computers. The museum is located in an attractive modern building, and is part of the Heinz Nixdorf Museum Forum, which organises regular symposia on topics related to computing.