Computer engineer Arnold Spielberg, the father of Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg has passed away at the age of one hundred and three (103). He died of natural causes after a long, full life. In addition to helping design the GE-200 series of mainframe computers for General Electric, he invented the electronic cash register. He served honorably in WWII in the United States army Air Corps as a radio operator in the 490th Bombardment Group.
Arnold Meyer Spielberg was born February 6, 1917, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Both his parents were Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine. Attracted to science from an early age, he turned the family attic into a lab for his experiments when he was only six. He became a ham radio operator at twelve. Variety quoted his daughter Sue, ““He made friends over the radio. He heard from people he never knew existed. He connected with strangers and this affability is something he carried over into real life, often befriending another person in line at Starbucks or the table next to him.”
Sergeant Arnold Spielberg returned to Ohio after the war. He married concert pianist Leah Posner. He enrolled in the University of Cinncinnati, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. Steven Spielberg, the first of their four children, was born in 1946.
1n 1963, Arnold Spielberg helped Steven make his first movie, Firelight, which later inspired Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Arnold Spielberg first worked for RCA, and then for General Electric. PBS reported he “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 the rise of personal computers in the 1970s and 80s.”
Steven Spielberg bragged, ““When I see a PlayStation, when I look at a cell phone — from the smallest calculator to an iPad — I look at my dad and I say, ‘My dad and a team of geniuses started that.’” Most of us love and respect our parents, but few of us can make such a boast.
Not only did Arnold and Leah Spielberg provide a home for Steven and his sisters where learning was valued, both science and the fine arts, bur he directly inspired some of his fims from his stories of WWII and the Cold War: Saving Private Ryan, Bridge of Spies, and possibly the Indiana Jones series. Their divorce influenced some of the subplots in E.T. and Jurassic Park.
Arnold M. Spielberg was married three times. He had four children (all by his first wife), four step children, eleven grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. He died August 25, 2020, at his home in Los Angeles, CA, surrounded by his family.
After his retirement, he worked with USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, formerly Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, an organization founded by his son, Steven Spielberg. The electronic library system he invented helped catalog the Shoah Institute’s some 52,000 interviews and 105,000 hours of visual history of Holocaust survivors.
Variety reported “Spielberg is preceded in death by his brother, Irvin “Buddy” Spielberg, his [third] wife, Bernice Colner Spielberg, and his first wife, Leah Spielberg Adler. He is survived by his children, film director Steven Spielberg (wife, Kate Capshaw); screenwriter Anne Spielberg (husband, Danny Opatoshu); marketing executive Sue Spielberg (husband Jerry Pasternak); and producer Nancy Spielberg (husband Shimon Katz). He is also survived by 4 stepchildren, 11 grandchildren, 8 great grandchildren, and [many] adoring cousins, nieces, and nephews.”
Whenever a centarian dies, a piece of history dies with them: the memories they had, the stories only they could tell. Arnold Spielberg’s life was a powerful example. May his memory be a blessing.