picture by Slawomir Lotysz

Conference Report: History of High Technologies

Yeah! Got the chance to present my PhD idea at an international conference in Tel Aviv


From August 16-21, the International Committee for the History of Technology (ICOHTEC) had its 42nd Annual meeting in Tel Aviv. For this international conference, scholars from many different backgrounds came to present papers on the “History of High-Technologies and their Socio-Cultural Contexts”.

I applied to attend with a paper presenting my PhD idea. I was not quite sure if the application will be successful as I am in a quite early stage of my PhD and unable to present results of my research yet. Still, I wanted to go to get feedback for my idea and to network with scholars working in the field.

My application was successful and I was able to speak at the second Plenary Session chaired by Dick van Lente (Erasmus University Rotterdam). The presentation was a very good experience. It was the first time, I shared my ideas with an international audience in english (which is a challenge as all my sources are in German), networked I got useful feedback to rethink my approaches. I am especially thankful for the travel grant ICOHTEC provided me to cover travel expenses and for the Gerda Henkel Stiftung to cover registration fee and accommodation. I am already looking forward to attend the ICOHTEC Annual Meeting in Porto (Portugal) next year!

Abstract of my paper:

“The Role of Cold War Computer Technology in East and West German Militaries (1960s–1980s) Digital computers are a fundamental part of today’s military defense. During the Cold War, these computers were first implemented in strategic operations, administration and training. This paper deals with the role of computer technology in both the National People’s Army (NVA) and the Bundeswehr in context of the Cold War. Expectations relating to the implementation of computer technology will be compared to its actual application. The paper takes into account the social, technical and structural changes that occurred in both militaries through computers. To deal with both the NVA and the Bundeswehr is especially crucial because of the direct confrontation line between the NATO and the Warsaw Treaty in Germany. First findings show that the system of alliances has a significant influence of both the implementation of computers and the connected ideological construct within in the Cold War discourse, where Computers became a metaphor to demonstrate military dominance and strength. The paper focuses on first results, as well as the presentation of my source base and methods. The analysis is based on sources I obtained in the German National Archive in Freiburg, the company archives of Siemens and IBM, oral history findings and official publications. Methodologically, I aim to connect to research in a wider context of the “social history of computing” in order to place the history of computing in German militaries in its social, cultural and political context using a discourse analytical approach.”

 Conference Program

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