Astronautics ZS-1

ZS-1 Demonstrator   “Annette”

     In the 1980’s the Astronautics Corporation of America maintained a research facility in Madison, Wisconsin in the former Queen of Apostles Seminary where the ZS-1 super mini computer was developed.  the Pallottine Fathers decided to close the school in 1979. The property was purchased by Nathaniel Zelazo and his sister Norma Paige of Astronautics Corp. of America to continue their space research for the University of Wisconsin.


     Zelazo (1918-2018) and Norma Paige (1922-2017) founded Astronautics Corporation of America in 1959. The company makes  aircraft navigation aids.  The ZS systems claimed a performance of 45 MIPS and 22.5 MFLOPS, with from 32Mb to 1,024Mb memory. The ZS-2 was a dual processor version, and both could be expanded to take up to four CPUs. They ran BSD Unix 4.3 and Sun’s Network File System, The ZS-Series was the result of a four year development project, and the two models – the ZS-1 and ZS-2 – were aimed primarily at the general scientific and engineering applications market.  Prices for the ZS Series went from $400,000 to $700,000.


     During January 2002 Merle Peirce drove to Wisconsin to retrieve this Astronautics ZS-1 system. Jon Auringer and Andre Boeder of Astronautics, Richard Shauer, Jerry ?, and ?, of the Illinois Railway Museum's Trackless Department, and Dr. Gunter Schadow assisted in loading the equipment in Wisconsin.  Dr. James E. Smith, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was involved in the design and took a sabbatical from 1985-1989 to work on the ACA ZS-1 project. The ZS programme had hardly come to fruition when Cray released its EL-98 model which was more popular.  As a result, only six ZS-1’s were constructed.