Arnold Spielberg — the computer designer and father of director Steven Spielberg — died on Tuesday at the age of 103. Spielberg’s family announced his death, saying it was of natural causes. Arnold designed the GE-225 mainframe computer. That was the computer that Dartmouth College researchers used to develop the BASIC tool for coding, enabling the creation of the personal computer. He also helped Steven, his only son, in the creation of the movie Firelight in 1964. Steven directed, wrote, and edited the 135-minute film. It played at one theater in Phoenix in 1964. It was the first step in Steven Spielberg’s storied cinematic career.
Arnold was born on February 6, 1917, to Ukrainian immigrants in Cincinnati. He took an early interest in science and sci-fi. Arnold enlisted in the Army shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor, serving with the 490th Bomb Squadron as a communications chief. He earned a Bronze Star, which inspired Steven to make the film Saving Private Ryan.
Arnold married Leah Posner, a concert pianist from Cincinnati, in 1945. They had four children: Steven, Anne, Sue, and Nancy.
Arnold went to the University of Cincinnati to study electrical engineering, graduating in 1949 and finding work designing the electronics of missiles systems for RCA. In 1955, he signed on to General Electric’s computer science division in New York. He and his family went to Phoenix in 1957 to establish General Electric’s Industrial Computer Department.
Arnold left General Electric in 1963 and moved to California in 1964. He and his wife divorced in 1967. Steven continued to live with his father.
In the 1990s, Arnold came up with the idea for the USC Shoah Foundation Insitute to record and preserve the testimonies of Holocaust survivors. Steven founded the institute, which recorded 52,000 interviews spanning 105,000 hours. Arnold received the institute’s first Inspiration Award in 2012.
Arnold remarried twice. He and Bernice Colner wed in 1997. She died in 2016.
Arnold’s survivors include his children Steven Spielberg and his wife, Kate Capshaw, screenwriter Anne Spielberg and her husband, Danny Opatoshu, marketing executive Sue Spielberg and her husband Jerry Pasternak, and producer Nancy Spielberg and her husband Shimon Katz, as well as four stepchildren, 11 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. In a statement, Arnold’s children said that their father “taught them to ‘love to research,’ to ‘expand their mind,’ to ‘keep their feet on the ground but reach for the stars’ and perhaps most fatefully to ‘look up.'”
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