From the Display of a Digital-Masculine Machine to the Concealed Analog-Feminine Labour: The Passage from the History of Technology to Labour and Gender History

Published: Jun 3, 2020
Technology Computing Labour Analog Digital Gender Analogue
Aristotle Tympas

The article introduces the essentialist 1940s demarcation between a digital-superior and an analog-inferior computer as a key moment in severing the computing machine from the human worker labouring with it, and, accordingly, to keeping the history of computing technology and the history of computing labour apart. It starts with a section that further argues that the introduction of this key demarcation is strongly linked to the transition from the prewar use of the concept “computer”, which referred to a human worker, to its postwar use, which refers to a computing machine. The argument comes full circle by connecting the concealed analog to hidden female computing labour, a connection suggested by a revisiting of the paradigmatic display of the ENIAC as a digital machine. There follow two sections, one on the history of the female labour concealed by presenting the digital computer as superior and the other on the history of the male labour neglected by ignoring the analog computer as inferior.

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Author Biography
Aristotle Tympas, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

Aristotle Tympas is a professor at the History and Philosophy of Science Department of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. His studies combined engineering (MSc, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 1989), policy (MSc, Georgia Tech, 1995) and history-sociology (PhD, Georgia Tech, 2001). A former chair (2017–2019) of the management committee of the “Tensions of Europe: Research Network on History, Technology and Europe”, he currently serves as vice president of the International Master’s Programme on Society, Science and Technology (ESST), as director of the Interdepartmental Graduate Program “Science, Technology, Society: Science and Technology Studies” and as director of the Division of the History of Science and Technology, Department of History and Philosophy of Science. He has been a visiting scholar in the US (MIT Program in Science, Technology and Society), Germany (Viadrina Center B/Orders in Motion) and Sweden (Swedish Institute for Disability Research). He is the author of Calculation and Computation in the Pre-electronic Era: the Mechanical and Electrical Ages (London: Springer, 2017) and Αναλογική εργασία, ψηφιακό κεφάλαιο [Analog labour, digital capital] (Athens: Angelus Novus, 2018).

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