[SIGCIS-Members] Annals, issue 2022-4

vahrenkamp2 at gmx.de vahrenkamp2 at gmx.de
Thu Dec 8 07:31:44 PST 2022

Thank you, David Hemmendinger, for drawing attention to the issue 4 of Annals 2022 and making it available to us. I have looked at the review of the book by Corinna Schlombs  Productivity Machines: German Appropriations of American Technology from Mass production to Computer Automation, and I am not entirely convinced. Automation was only a brief but heated debate in the US, Germany and Europe in the 1950s. But computer use in industrial production and administration came later. In the 1950s, there were perhaps two computers in industry and administration in Germany, and perhaps ten in the United States. In this respect, it seems exaggerated to speak of the computer as a productivity machine in the 1950s. It is true that productivity was the buzzword in the Americans' Marshall Plan. But Germany did not need any advice on this, since German industry was producing at a very high level as a result of weapons production in WW2. What today is largely redeemed as automatic production with the use of computers in industry was merely a debate in the 1950s. It is typical of Norbert Wiener who took part in it. But he contributed nothing to the development of the computer. The rationalization debate in the 1920s and the automation debate in the 1950s have been addressed in Germany by many publications by historians, as has the Taylorism debate. Where Corinna Schlombs' book perhaps overestimates U.S. leadership is in the office machinery sector. Germany had a quite competitive industry in office machines, as I have shown in my book "The First Informationexplosion".
All the best Richard

Prof. Dr. Richard Vahrenkamp 
Logistik Consulting Berlin 
Phone 0177- 628 3325 
E-Mail: Vahrenkamp2 at gmx.de
 Web: www.vahrenkamp.org 
Heubnerweg 11, 14059 Berlin
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