Communist Robots

From Richard Vinen, ‘How Communism Lost’, in A History in Fragments: Europe in the Twentieth Century;

The communist failure in computing was sometimes illustrated in farcial terms, especially in East Germany, where leadership invested much prestige in its ability to master the new technology. When factory managers were given orders to install a certain quota of ‘robots’ in all plants, they responded by redefining existing devices – such as lifts and vacuum cleaners – to fit this new category.

…and some more…

Cheap Western personal computers flooded into eastern Europe; often they were bought on the black market and used to facilitate black economy enterprises. Poland, where there were said to be half a million private computers, was the most affected by this wave. Computers facilitated the dissemination of information by opposition groups. The days when the state could ensure that it controlled every typewriter in the country were over when any seventeen-year-old with an Amstrad could produce samizdat publications. When the leader of Warsaw Solidarity went underground, he took his Tandy personal computer with him.


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