In memoriam Béla Frajka

László Kozma and Béla Frajka

It was sorrowful to read the obituary issued by the Scientific Association for Infocommunications about the death of electrical engineer Béla Frajka (1933-2017).

Béla Frajka was a university lecturer at the Budapest Technical University for many decades and also the university’s former deputy dean. He was an influential teacher and a specialist of telecommunications technology and telephone exchanges.

He was a prominent personality in the history of Hungarian computer science. At the Department of Telecommunication Engineering of the Budapest Technical University, Frajka worked together with Professor László Kozma, the designer of MESz-1, the first Hungarian electromechanical (relay) computer.

Professor Kozma became a pioneering expert of electromechanical computers (“zero generation” computers in the terminology of computer history literature) in Antwerp before World War Two, survived the holocaust and Stalinism before he could build the “Computer of the Tehnical University” between 1957 and 1958.

Béla Frajka with the MESz-1 computer,
Study-Store of
Hungarian Museum of Science, Technology and Transport, 2013.
Photo by: Réka Nagy

Béla Frajka became Kozma’s most devoted permanent colleague, who programmed and operated MESZ-1, Hungary’s first computer designed for educational purposes, for over ten years. In the prolific period of the 1960s, Frajka also collaborated with Kozma in building a special purpose computer designed to perform language statistics. The latter perished, but MESz-1 can still be seen in the Technical Study Stores of the Hungarian Museum of Science, Technology and Transport.

The significance of MESz-1 is comparable to the computers Konrad Zuse built in Germany.

We can also see the machine at work in one Filmhíradó (Hungarian newsreel used to be shown before feature films in cinemas; Béla Frajka can be seen at 0.29 secs).

László Kozma is included as one of the most significant pioneers and paramount figures of Hungarian computer science in the Exhibition on Computer Science arranged by the John von Neumann Computer Society. And it was just this year that we did a video portrait of Béla Frajka for our Computer History Database. The video portrait, which will be soon released, was perhaps the last interview with professor Frajka.

The death of the master of relay computers marks the end of an epoch—we shall treasure his memory with due respect.

Obituary by the Scientific Association for Infocommunications:;jsessionid=D9061216908B9AB98BFDBD3BA472E02D (link is external)

Béla Frajka’s biography in the Computer History Database of the John von Neumann Computer Society: