PrePrint: Computer dealer demos. How computer industry, software companies and user communities sold home computers with bouncing balls and animated logos?
With this article I discuss the practices of making and use of computer dealer demos. Such impressive audio visual presentations, for instance Boing Ball for the Commodore Amiga, were used to impress trade show audience and customers in retail stores. As I argue, dealer demos had a significant impact on shaping the cultural image of home computer. Often such presentations intended to provide an emotional rather than rational influence on a potential customer. I discuss origin, content, and application of several dealer demos utilized by Commodore International Ltd., Atari Corp. and Apple Inc., main home computer manufacturers from the 1980s. Most dealer demos were made by independent software companies and user communities and further acquired for marketing strategies by the hardware industry. This case shows how the home computer was socially constructed as consumer commodity through interdependent activities of aforementioned actors rather than simply marketing strategies of the hardware industry.
PrePrint: 'This is not a computer': negotiating the microprocessor
The Intel 4004 μ-Computer is the earliest known microprocessor-based hardware distributed by Intel. This paper relates the information concerning the 4004 $\mu$-Computer in an effort to gain a more complete historical perspective on the liminal period in the corporate history of Intel when, soon after the introduction of its first microprocessor, the company was wrestling with the `one chip CPU -- computer or component?' dilemma and tried to position itself in the emerging microcomputing market that it helped to create.
PrePrint: Facit and the displacement of mechanical calculators
This article explains why Facit, a Swedish manufacturer of mechanical calculators, typewriters and office furniture collapsed in the shift from mechanical to electronic calculators in the early 1970s. Facit struggled to develop its own electronic calculators as its competencies were related to mechanics rather than electronics. The technological discontinuity also implied changes in industry structure and therefore Facit faced increased competition. The rapid development of integrated circuits in 1967-72 implied that all these structural changes happened in a short period of time, putting firms like Facit in an awkward position. The paper also contributes to existing theory by arguing that a firm’s geographical location affects its response to a technological discontinuity. Being situated in a small Swedish company town with skills related to mechanics augmented the company’s difficulties as electronics was primarily developed in the United States and in Japan.
PrePrint: "A New Field in Electrical Engineering": The Origins and Early History of Computer Engineering in the United States
This paper examines the origins and early history of the field of computer engineering in the United States, from the mid-1940s to mid-1950s. The account is based on both primary and secondary sources, and draws theory from technology studies and the sociology of professions. The paper begins by discussing roles played by engineers and engineering during development of some of the first high-speed digital computers. It then describes the efforts of two electrical engineering institutes as they staked claims in computing, followed by a discussion of bifurcated versus integrated visions for the new field. The final sections turn to the emergence and establishment of computer engineering as a distinct field or specialty, primarily in the context of professional societies and private sector firms. One main goal of this paper is to show how the jurisdiction of engineering expanded to include computer hardware design.
PrePrint: From Ancient to Modern Computing: A History of Information Hiding
In this paper, a methodological approach to the historiography of computing is proposed in terms of information hiding, i.e. the introduction of Levels of Abstraction (LoAs) between the human being and the computing machine. This approach applies the LoAs in terms of the epistemological levellism proposed within the Philosophy of Information (PI) to the transition from ancient to modern computing. In particular, the black box metaphor and Von Neumann's architectures are discussed. Also, a formalisation of the method of LoAs is proposed as a mathematical counterpart. Information itself is then treated as structure-preserving functions, so that a LoA can distinguish what kind of information gets hidden when human beings interact with computing machines.