The 'IBM in Europe' research project, status 13.11.2012.

IBM and the Shaping of European Computer Expertise
Research site: Department of Cultural History, University of Turku

-- See here for project's publications which are also available for you to download.

-- For latest presentation titles, see below.

-- An Inventing Europe Summer School co-arranged by the project in August 2009: Oral History and Technological Memory: Challenges in Studying European Pasts.

-- A web exhibition by the Inventing Europe research program and Tensions of Europe network, Europe, Interrupted.

Funding Agency: Academy of Finland, Finland

The project aims to scrutinize the co-shaping of computer expertise and visions of European capabilities through the use of IBM technology in Europe during the Cold War, especially between 1950–1980. IBM Corporation and its technology had extensive influence in Europe in the era of mainframe computers. This influence is essential in understanding both European experiences in computer use, including software, and the processes in which visions of European and national computing and data processing were planned, negotiated and performed. So far, this topic has received only passing academic attention, except a few important studies on national IBM's in Europe. Instead of just adopting foreign technology and absorbing alien culture from outside, as has long been the dominant view on Europe’s relation to the IBM, the question arouses: did Europeans reshape and reinterpret IBM technology to fit their own purposes? Furthermore, this research offers new insights into the roles that multinational companies have played and can play in shaping Europe.

The project has links with all three themes in the Inventing Europe research programme and forms a central part of the Collaborative Research Project “Software for Europe” as it studies Europe through artefact appropriation.

The use of IBM technology in shaping Europe will be analysed on several levels, the two most important ones being the European (IBM Europe) and the national level (focusing on IBM Finland). The project will draw on archival sources, critical reading of published materials, and interviews. Moreover, memories and information will also be collected via an Internet questionnaire, which suits well for an international inquiry, including both European and American respondents. Our research will be of both academic and public interest and we will actively diffuse our findings to both audiences.


In 2012, I presented papers for instance in the European Business History Association’s conference (Paris) and in the Society for the History of Technology’s annual meeting (Copenhagen) as well as in the attached SIGCIS workshop.


P. Paju, “IBM and nationalism in a small European country: international and transnational evidence”. Inventing Europe research program, closing conference, Sofia, Bulgaria 17-12.6.2010.
--Also presented at the Annual conference of the International Society for Cultural History, Turku, Finland 30.5.2010.

P. Paju,
“IBM Histories – re-using IT knowledge and the art of forgetting.” Reusing the Industrial Past conference (ICOHTEC, TICCIH, Worklab). Tampere, Finland, 12.8.2010.

P. Paju, “IBM Manufacturing in the Nordic Countries”. History of Nordic Computing 3 conference, Stockholm 18-20.10.2010.

P. Paju & E. Malmi & T. Honkela, “Text mining and qualitative analysis of the Swedish IT history interviews”. History of Nordic Computing 3 conference, Stockholm 18-20.10.2010.

In addition participation in Software histories, European styles workshop, Leiden, the Netherlands 13-17.9.2010. Our SOFTEU project group is making a collection.

In winter-spring 2011, an English lecture and a presentation in Finnish, both at University of Helsinki.

If you have research interests in this direction, don't hesitate to contact us!

(Former) Project Leader:
Professor Hannu Salmi (hansalmi at

Postdoc researcher Petri Paju (petpaju   at, funded by 1 August 2007

- both from: Department of Cultural History,
University of Turku, Finland.

This project was (2007
2010) part of the "Software for Europe" group in the European Science Foundation research programme Inventing Europe.

A research news article in Finnish published in the university of Turku web-pages:
Tietokoneilla Eurooppaa rakentamassa (Building Europe with Computers).

Partners in this research collaboration include:

Helena Durnova

Thomas Haigh be continued.