GE en­gi­neer, fa­ther of Steven Spiel­berg, 103

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION/WORLD - BY AN­DREW DAL­TON AP En­ter­tain­ment Writer

LOS AN­GE­LES — Arnold Spiel­berg, fa­ther of film­maker Steven Spiel­berg and an in­no­vat­ing en­gi­neer whose work helped make the per­sonal com­puter pos­si­ble, has died at 103 years old.

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

Mr. Spiel­berg and Charles Prop­ster de­signed the GE-225 main­frame com­puter in the late 1950s 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 com­put­ers in the 1970s and 80s.

“Dad ex­plained how his com­puter was ex­pected to per­form, but the lan­guage of com­puter sci­ence in those days was like Greek to me,” Steven Spiel­berg told the Gen­eral Elec­tric pub­li­ca­tion GE Re­ports. “It all seemed very ex­cit­ing, but it was very much out of my reach.” Later on, he un­der­stood. “When I see a PlaySta­tion, when I look at a cell­phone — from the small­est cal­cu­la­tor to an iPad — I look at my dad and I say, ‘My dad and a team of ge­niuses started that,’” Spiel­berg said in the fam­ily state­ment.

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

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

The son of Ukrainian Jewish im­mi­grants, Arnold Spiel­berg was born in Cincin­nati in 1917. He was ob­sessed with gad­getry, build­ing his own crys­tal ra­dio at age 9 and a ham ra­dio at 15, de­vel­op­ing skills he would use dur­ing World War II as a ra­dio op­er­a­tor and chief com­mu­ni­ca­tions man 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 to work in com­puter re­search for RCA, where he helped de­velop the first point-of-sale com­put­er­ized cash reg­is­ter, be­fore mov­ing on to GE.

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

All 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 brought up for Steven Spiel­berg were ex­plored in his 1982 film, “E.T.”

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

CHRIS PIZZELLO/AP

Steven Spiel­berg and Arnold Spiel­berg at an Os­cars lun­cheon in 2006.

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