[SIGCIS-Members] A new PhD on nationalism and information technology in the 1950s Finland

Petri Paju petpaju at utu.fi
Fri Nov 14 01:11:26 PST 2008

Hi all,

For your information, here's a new book that deals with history of 
information technology and nationalism in the 1950s Finland, with a 
title: "Building 'Ilmarinen's Finland': The Committee for Mathematical 
Machines and computer construction as a national project in the 1950s" 
(540 pages, in Finnish).

- Ilmarinen is a character, a blacksmith, in the Finnish national epic, 
the Kalevala, and later used as a symbol of technical skills. I also 
deal and continue with the scientist's international interactions that 
were a major part of making this 'national project' in the forthcoming 
article in IEEE Annals of the history of computing (4/2008).

The thesis can be found electronically (a PDF file) in:

And here's the abstract for it (there's an almost ten page Summary in 
the end of the PDF file):

The dissertation “Building ‘Ilmarinen’s Finland’: The Committee for 
Mathematical Machines and computer construction as a national project in 
the 1950s” examines the history of information technology and 
nationalism in the 1950’s Finland. The study focuses on the Committee 
for Mathematical Machines (1954-1960), which was designated to acquire 
the country’s first computer, and its associates and asks, how was the 
Committee justified, especially from the perspective of the national 
good, and what kind of motives did the actions of the Committee 
manifest. The motives studied are the Committee’s goals in the field of 
computing, in developing science and technology in society, and in 
imagining Finland anew. The materials for the study consist of a 
multifaceted collection of sources from Finland, Sweden and Germany.

The Committee chose to duplicate a G1a computer from Göttingen, Western
Germany. In Finland the computer was named ESKO. However, the copying 
was delayed several times and eventually produced an old-fashioned 
computer. In addition to building the ESKO, the Committee early on 
intended to create a national computing center in Helsinki. This master 
plan can be regarded as a scientific and technological policy prior to 
state involvement in such matters in Finland.

The projects of the Committee greatly benefitted the field, particularly 
the companies of IBM Finland and the Finnish Cable Works, which started 
a computing center similar to that planned by the Committee. This 
business unit later evolved into a part of the Nokia Corporation. The 
term ‘Ilmarinen’s Finland’ is used to argue that technology did not just 
become a ‘national project’ in postwar Finland, but was explicitly made so.

Petri Paju, FT, tutkija, Turun yliopisto
-- Ph.D. Researcher, Univ. of Turku

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