Computer Memories

P. Atkinson, ‘Computer Memories:
The History of Computer Form’
History and Technology 15(1-2): 1998: 89-120.

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Abstract

This paper looks at the computer as a truly global form. The similar beige boxes found in offices across the world are analysed from the perspective of design history rather than that of the history of science and technology. Through the exploration of an archive of computer manufacturer’s catalogues and concurrent design texts, this paper examines the changes that have occurred in the production and consumption of the computer in the context of the workplace, from its inception as a room-sized mainframe operated through a console of flashing lights, to the personal computer as a ‘universal’ form, reproduced by many manufacturers. It shows how the computer in the past has been as diverse as any other product, and asks how and why it now appears as a standardised, sanitised object. In doing so our relationship with the office computer, past and present is explored, revealing a complex history of vicissitude.

A full text version of this article can be downloaded from here:

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