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Computing for the Masses? Constructing a British Culture of Computing in the Home

Abstract : The creation of the personal computer during the late 1970s and early 1980s is heralded as a time that people were liberated by computers as tools for everyone. The proliferation of affordable and relatively powerful computers changed the landscape of computing across the globe. This chapter looks at the introduction of one machine, the BBC Microcomputer, and its influence on the culture of computing in Britain. It has been celebrated as a computer that transformed the educational landscape and brought the power of these tools to a new generation of users. The chapter shows how the machine was constructed within a broader ambition for computer literacy within Britain, and discusses the role of the BBC team in creating the meaning and values of the machine in the home. It illustrates the interplay between a broadcaster, government desire for a high-tech industry and perceived consumer needs. Drawing on the social construction of technology by a variety of actors (Woolgar, 1991) the chapter suggests that enthusiasm for the BBC Microcomputer came not only from the creation of a concept of utility for home machines, but in its role as a technology that embodied the future and symbolised the social capital of the home.Recent nostalgia for the BBC Microcomputer and Computer Literacy Project has celebrated this moment in the 1980s as a time when the government seeded a new passion for computing. The chapter suggests that similar projects today, which aim to create an interest in programming, should facilitate a social need for empowerment and interaction in the home, rather than focus purely on the technical capabilities of the machine or push a concept of the perceived utility of computers in education.
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Tilly Blyth. Computing for the Masses? Constructing a British Culture of Computing in the Home. Arthur Tatnall. Reflections on the History of Computing : Preserving Memories and Sharing Stories, AICT-387, Springer, pp.231-242, 2012, IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology (SURVEY), ⟨10.1007/978-3-642-33899-1_15⟩. ⟨hal-01526798⟩



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