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Socialist Life of a U.S. Army Computer in the GDR’s Financial Sector

Abstract : This article investigates the role of the first digital computer in GDR’s socialist financial system. Why did the GDR’s Ministry of Finance import a Univac computer from the U.S. army in 1965, even though the country aimed at computational autarky and was restricted by embargo? The main argument is that the Ministry of Finance imported the computer to kickstart its program for electronic data processing. They succeeded because they not only imported a machine, but also reframed it ideologically. They drew on the notion of the computer as a universal machine and adapted it to local conditions. The process hints to the ambiguity of the later decision of the East Bloc toward copying IBM’s system architecture. This article investigates this process by following the traces of an early computer and the ideas surrounding it through the Iron Curtain. It stresses the role of early computer users with the example of GDR’s financial system in contrast to better known producer stories. Through the analysis of exclusive material, this is suggesting a different perspective on the import procedures of Eastern European countries in the Cold War. A policy change in the Cold War towards détente becomes visible as early as in 1965.
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Martin Schmitt. Socialist Life of a U.S. Army Computer in the GDR’s Financial Sector. IFIP International Conference on the History of Computing (HC), Sep 2018, Poznan, Poland. pp.139-164, ⟨10.1007/978-3-030-29160-0_9⟩. ⟨hal-02386553⟩

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