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Issue No.02 - April-June (2012 vol.34)
pp: 34-48
ABSTRACT
The German Democratic Republic made a major commitment to the manufacture and use of computers, following common practices embraced by communist regimes during the Cold War. This article describes the political, economic, and technical results from the founding of the GDR to its demise in 1989.
INDEX TERMS
history of computing, German Democratic Republic, GDR, ZRA 1, D 1-2, D 4, Soviet Union
CITATION
James W. Cortada, "Information Technologies in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), 1949–1989", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol.34, no. 2, pp. 34-48, April-June 2012, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2012.27
REFERENCES
1. F. Naumann and G. Schade eds., Informatik in der DDR—eine Bilanz [Computer Science in the GDR: A Balance Sheet], Gesellschaft für Informatik, 2006. In particular within this volume, see G. Merkel, "Computerentwicklungen in der DDR—Rahmenbedingungen und Ergebnisse", [Computer Development in the GDR: Conditions and Results], pp. 40–70. B. Demuth ed., Informatik in der DDR—Grundlagen und Anwendungen, [Computer Science in the GDR: Principles and Applications], Gesellschaft für Informatik, 2008, which focuses largely on the many technological developments underway in East Germany. W. Coy, and P. Schirmbacher eds., Informatik in der DDR: Tagung Berlin 2010, [Computer Development in the GDR: Berlin 2010 Conference], Tagungsband, 2010, which includes numerous case studies. For details on universities and related institutes and for a new account of the supply side of events, see C. Pieper, Hochschulinformatik in der Bundesrepublik und der DDR bis 1989/1990 [High School Computer Science in the Federal Republic and the GDR until 1989/1990], Franz Steiner Verlag, 2009.
2. For an example of this line of research, see D.L. Augustine, Red Prometheus: Engineering and Dictatorship in East Germany, 1945–1990, MIT Press, 2007.
3. Even down to the debates about Marxism and cybernetics, S. Werner, Kybernetik statt Marx? [Cybernetics Instead of Marx?], Verlag Bonn Aktuell, 1977, pp. 20–43.
4. F. Naumann, "Zur Entwicklung der Computerindustrie in den beiden deutschen Staaten" [Developing the Computer Industry in Two German States], Der Wandel von Industrie, Wissenschaft und Technik in Deutschland und Frankreich, vol. 20, 2002, pp. 143–164.
5. F. Naumann, "Computer in Ost und West. Wurzeln, Konzepte und Industrien zwischen 1945 und 1990" [Computers in the East and West: Roots, Concepts, and Industry, 1945–1990], Technikgeschichte, vol. 64, 1997, pp. 125–144.
6. Often linked to an extensive debate in the GDR in the 1950s and 1960s about Socialist cybernetics, paralleling similar debates in various parts of the Comecon community, P. Auman, Mode und Methode—die Kybernetik in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Wissenschaft in der Öffentlichkeit [Fashion and Method: Cybernetics in the Federal Republic of Germany. Science in the Public], Wallstein, 2009.
7. See, for example, the studies included in Schade and Naumann, Informatik in der DDR, and Pieper, Hochschulinformatik in der Bundesrepublik und der DDR bis 1989/1990, pp. 165–301.
8. I have commented on the Soviet experience in, "Public Policies and the Development of National Computer Industries in Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, 1940-80," J. Contemporary History, vol. 44, no. 3, 2009, pp. 493–512.
9. J.P. Hardt, "East European Economies in Crisis," East European Economic Assessment, pp. 1–3; L. Czirjak, "Industrial Structure, Growth, and Productivity in Eastern Europe," US Joint Economic Committee, Economic Developments in Countries of Eastern Europe, US Government Printing Office, 1970, pp. 434–447; J. Wilczynski, Technology in Comecon: Acceleration of Technological Progress through Economic Planning and the Market, Macmillan, 1974, pp. 4–22.
10. Sobeslavsky and Lehmann, Zur Geschichte von Rechentechnik und Datenverarbeitung in der DDR 1946–1968, Hannah-Arendt-Institut, p. 13, is the only history available on East German IT; E.M. Snell, and M. Harper, "Postwar Economic Growth in East Germany: A Comparison with West Germany," Economic Developments in Countries of Eastern Europe, pp. 558–575.
11. See the series of articles on activities at this institution in Demuth, Informatik in der DDR, pp. 129–163.
12. R.G. Stokes, Constructing Socialism: Technology and Change in East Germany, 1945–1990, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2000, pp. 1–18.
13. Stokes, Constructing Socialism, pp. 19–20; R. Karlsch, Allein bezahlt? [Paid Alone?], Ch. Links, 1993, p. 282.
14. Stokes, Constructing Socialism, pp. 21–30.
15. Stokes, Constructing Socialism, pp. 26–27.
16. Stokes, Constructing Socialism, pp. 26–27, but also consult the earlier book by V. Slamecka, Science in East Germany, Columbia Univ. Press, 1963, which provides a detailed snapshot of the research infrastructure in the GDR as of 1961–1962.
17. Sobeslavsky and Lehmann, Zur Geschichte von Rechentechnik und Datenverarbeitung in der DDR 1946–1968, pp. 27–29; Nelson M. Blachman, "The State of Digital Computer Technology in Europe," Comm. ACM, vol. 4, no. 6, 1961, p. 258.
18. Sobeslavsky and Lehmann, Zur Geschichte von Rechentechnik und Datenverarbeitung in der DDR 1946–1968, pp. 29–33.
19. For a description of these machines, see N.M. Blachman, "Central European Computers," Comm. ACM, vol. 2, no. 6, 1959, pp. 14–15; Sobeslavsky, and Lehmann, Zur Geschchite von Rechentechnik und Datenverarbeitung in der DDR 1946–1968, pp. 33–38, 160.
20. Stokes, Constructing Socialism, pp. 61, 66–67.
21. Stokes, Constructing Socialism, pp. 95.
22. D. Cornelsen, "The GDR in a Period of Foreign Trade Difficulties: Development and Prospects for the 1980s," US Joint Economic Committee, East European Economic Assessment, Part 1— Country Studies, 1980, US Government Printing Office, 1981, pp. 299–324.
23. The Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls was established by the Western powers to block the sale of weapons and other advanced technologies to communist nations. It was a major player in slowing and stopping the flow of various IT products from the West.
24. R. Bentley, Research and Technology in the Former German Democratic Republic, Westview Press, 1992, pp. 24, 101, 103–106.
25. Bentley, Research and Technology in the Former German Democratic Republic, pp. 93–108.
26. Slamecka, Science in East Germany, pp. 14–16. For a description of the combine system, see T.A. Baylis, "East Germany's Economic Model," Current History, 1987, pp. 377–381, 393, 394; I.L. Collier Jr., "GDR Economic Policy During the Honecker Era," Eastern European Economics, Fall, 1990, pp. 5–29.
27. Stokes, Constructing Socialism, p. 131.
28. Stokes, Constructing Socialism, p. 148; J. Segal, "Cybernetics in the German Democratic Republic: From Bourgeois Science to Panacea," Science, Technology, and Political Change: Proc. XXth Int'l Congress of History and Science, D. Hoffman, B. Severyns, and R.G. Stokes eds., 1999.
29. Wilczynski, Technology in Comecon, p. 109.
30. Wilczynski, Technology in Comecon, p. 111.
31. S.E. Goodman,, "Soviet Computing and Technology Transfer," World Politics, vol. 31, no. 4, 1979, p. 552; Stokes, Constructing Socialism, p. 181.
32. Goodman, "Soviet Computing and Technology Transfer: An Overview," pp. 551–553.
33. Data collected in Electronic Data Processing in the Soviet Union and Other East European Countries, East-West, 1972, pp. 10, 29, and J. Wilczynski, Technology in Comecon: Acceleration of Technological Progress through Economic Planning and the Market, Macmillan, 1974, p. 114. The GDR's inventory is accepted by E. Sobeslavsky, and N.J. Lehmann, Zur Geschichte von Rechentechnik und Datenverarbeitung in de DDR 1946–1968 [On the History of Computing in Data Processing in the East, 1946–1968], Hannah-Arendt-Institut für Totalitarismusforschung, 1996, p. 74.
34. Wilczynski, Technology in Comecon, pp. 115–116. His statistics on the world include number for the US (344), Switzerland (145), West Germany (109), Canada (107), Netherlands (98), Great Britain, (91), Benelux (90), Sweden (86), Denmark (71), Australia (69), Norway (64), Japan (56), Ireland (52), Italy (48), Austria (47), Israel (43), New Zealand, (39), and Finland (32).
35. Quote and data, Wilczynski, Technology in Comecon, p. 133.
36. Complaints and lack of demand were even discussed in print during this period, G. Merkel, "Mikroelektronik und wissenschaftlichtechnischer Fortschritt" [Microelectronics and Scientific Technical Progress], Einheit, vol. 32, Dec. 1977, pp. 1354–1360; Otfried Steger, "Mikroelektronik— ein wesentliches Element der Wirtschaftsstrategie" [Microelectronics: An essential Element of Economic Strategy], Neus Deutschland,12 Mar. 1981, p. 3.
37. G. Geipel, "Politics and Technology in the German Democratic Republic, 1977–1990," doctoral dissertation, Columbia Univ., 1993, p. 168. On the inability to support entrepreneurship in the GDR, see I.L. Collier Jr., "Intensification in the GDR: A Postscript," Studies in Comparative Communism, vol. 20, no. 1, 1987, p. 72.
38. Sobeslavsky and Lehmann, Zur Geschichte von Rechentechnik und Datenverarbeitung in der DDR 1946–1968, pp. 98–100; S. Donig, "Appropriating American Technology in the 1960s: Cold War Politics and the GDR Computer Industry," IEEE Annals, vol. 32, no. 2, 2010, pp. 32–45.
39. A. Steiner has looked at these issues for some time. See, for example, "Zwischen Konsumversprechen und Innovationszwang. Zum wirtschaftlichen Niedergang der DDR" [Between Consutions and Innovation: The Economic Decline of the GDR], Weg den Untergang. Der innere Zerfall der DDR [Path to Destruction: The Inner Decay of the GDR], K.H. Jarausch, and M. Sabrow, eds., Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999, pp. 153–192. All the essays in this volume focus on the GDR's economic decline.
40. Geipel, "Politics and Technology in the German Democratic Republic," p. 19.
41. Geipel, "Politics and Technology in the German Democratic Republic," p. 35.
42. K. Fuchs, "Warum Mikroelektronik?" [Why Microelectronics?], IEEE Spectrum, vol. 8, June 1977, p. 6; H. Koziolek, "The Economic Strategy of the Eleventh Party Congress of the SED and the New Stage in Science-Production Relations," Eastern European Economics, vol. 26, no. 2, 1987–1988, p. 67.
43. Quoted in Geipel, "Politics and Technology in the German Democratic Republic, 1977–1990," pp. 40–41.
44. A. Steiner, Von Plan zu Plan: eine Wirtschaftsgeschichte der DDR [From Plan to Plan: An Economic History of the GDR], Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 2004.
45. For statistics on oil and manufactured goods' trade between the Soviets and the GDR, see Geipel, "Politics and Technology in the German Democratic Republic," pp. 69–70.
46. Stokes, Constructing Socialism, pp. 171–173.
47. IDC data, 1990, in Geipel, "Politics and Technology in the German Democratic Republic," p. 155.
48. Based on East German data, Geipel, "Politics and Technology in the German Democratic Republic," p. 156.
49. Geipel, "Politics and Technology in the German Democratic Republic," p. 159.
50. G.L. Geipel, A.T. Jarmoszko, and S.E. Goodman, "The Information Technologies and East European Societies," East European Politics and Societies, vol. 5, no. 3, 1991, pp. 425–429.
51. Economics, vol. 26, no. 2, 1987–1988, p. 67; Geipel, "Politics and Technology in the German Democratic Republic," pp. 309–310.
52. Geipel, "Politics and Technology in the German Democratic Republic," p. 160.
53. Geipel, "Politics and Technology in the German Democratic Republic," pp. 105–107.
54. Geipel estimated that possibly 100,000 East Germans had PCs at the start of the 1990s: Geipel, "Politics and Technology in the German Democratic Republic," p. 123.
55. P. Gannon, Trojan Horses and National Champions: The Crisis in Europe's Computing and Telecommunications Industry, Apt-Amatic Books, 1997, p. 17; S.W. Popper, East European Reliance on Technology Imports from the West, RAND, 1988, pp. 20–21.
56. C. Johnson ed., Change in Communist Systems, Stanford Univ. Press, 1970; S.G. Schoppe, "Die intrasystemaren, und die intersystemaren Technologietransfers der DDR" [The Intrasystem and Intersystem Transfer of Technology of the GDR], Das Wirtschaftssystem der DDR [The Economic System of the GDR], G. Gutman ed., Gustav Fischer Verlag, 1983, pp. 345–362, as well as other chapters in same book; R. Pieper, "The GDR System for Managing Change: The Managerial Instruments," , Studies in GDR Culture and Society, M. Gerber ed., Univ. Press of America, 1988, pp. 35–55; Bentley, Technological Change in the German Democratic Republic, pp. 69–71.
57. Bentley, , Research and Technology in the Former German Democratic Republic, pp. 51–52, 176.
58. Geipel, "Politics and Technology in the German Democratic Republic," pp. 190–200.
59. Geipel, "Politics and Technology in the German Democratic Republic," p. 249.
60. Geipel, "Politics and Technology in the German Democratic Republic," p. 261.
61. Stokes, Constructing Socialism, p. 173.
62. Pieper, Hochschulinformatik in der Bundesrepublik und der DDR bis 1989/1990, who also demonstrates that these institutions collaborated with various local companies and other agencies.
63. The role of the academies and institutes has been the subject of much study in recent years, as discussed in Pieper, Hochschulinformatik in der Bundesrepublik und der DDR bis 1989/1990.
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