Our Friend the Computer

A podcast exploring alternative computing histories and their relationship to society.
Hosted by Camila Galaz and Ana Meisel.

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Episodes
Pre-Internet Networks: Beltel / WorkNet
Season 1, Episode 11
June 25, 2022
Link →
The girls discuss how South Africa’s videotex network Beltel fell into the hands of an oppressive government during apartheid. Although the police department grew stronger due to data storage accessibility via this videotex network, activists were also using technology for much better motives in opposition to the regime.
References
  • http://www.networkmuseum.net/2011/08/beltel.html
  • https://www.theregister.com/2019/04/26/on-call/
  • CS Students “The Use of Computers to Support Oppression” Stanford University, http://www-cs-students.stanford.edu/~cale/cs201/apartheid.comp.html
  • NARMIC/American Friends Service Committee, “Automating Apartheid - U.S. Computer exports to South Africa and the Arms Embargo” Omega Press, Philadelphia, 1982
  • Slob, Gert. “Computerizing Apartheid: export of computer hardware to South Africa” Amsterdam, May 1990
  • Lewis, David Robert. “The Electronic Struggle” Cape Town, 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I15TVFl_G_k, https://pt.slideshare.net/ubuntupunk/the-electronic-struggle-63558367
  • https://www.reuters.com/article/us-apartheid-lawsuit-idUKKBN0GS2P120140828
  • Pre-Internet Networks: NABU
    Season 1, Episode 10
    June 07, 2022
    Link →
    Back from London, Camila tells Ana about Canada's NABU network which operated via cable television services. It also could be considered one of the first examples of a 'streaming' subscription model for entertainment! The girls discuss the progression of streaming services, video game development, and their love of computer history museums.
    Main research by Camila.
    References
  • Barr, Greg. “Nabu Network dream fades” The Citizen, Ottawa, July 29 1986
  • Duhcharme, Jim. “The NABU Network: The Internet before the Internet.” PC World, December 4, 2005
  • Lungu, Dov, and Stachniak, Zbigniew. “Following TRACE: The Computer Hobby Movement in Canada.” Scientia Canadensis, vol.34 no. 1, 2011
  • Sutcliffe, Mark. “NABU Network an idea well ahead of its time.” The Ottawa Citizen, April 25, 2009
  • https://techpolicyinstitute.org/publications/miscellaneous/the-nabu-network-a-great-lesson-but-not-about-openness/
  • http://www.cse.yorku.ca/museum/collections/NABU/nabu.htm - https://todayinottawashistory.wordpress.com/2015/11/07/the-nabu-network/
  • https://museum.eecs.yorku.ca/nabu
  • https://www.ewh.ieee.org/reg/7/millennium/telidon/telidon_nabu.html
  • https://ottawarewind.com/2018/12/02/joystick-the-untold-story-of-ottawas-coke-fueled-1980s-video-game-industry/
  • https://doughenningproject.com/2021/08/12/nabu-computer-network-doug-article-advertisement/
  • Pre-Internet Networks: Bildschirmtext
    Season 1, Episode 9
    May 24, 2022
    Link →
    West Germany’s network videotex system, Bildschirmtext, was largely used for payment services by the Deutsche Bank, while its system was supported by hardware from the UK as West Germany continued to liberalise its society and economy. However its liberal use and basic encryption caused a few issues, irking Europe’s biggest hacking community Chaos Computer Club, sparking off it’s world-wide fame via the BTX-Hack. The girls talk about the anarchist attitudes in 80s divided Germany, the post-WW2 political and economic splitting that created this videotex system, and reminisce about the nostalgic aesthetics of Deutsche Telekom.
    Main research by Ana.
    Pre-Internet Networks: Reabracadabra (Bonus!)
    Season 1, Episode 8
    May 10, 2022
    Link →
    In this bonus episode Camila and Ana look at the Brazilian Videotex network Videotexto through the lens of the artwork of Eduardo Kac. Camila also recounts her visit to the opening of Eduardo's current exhibition in NYC 'From Minitel to NFT’ at Henrique Faria Gallery and the girls discuss: Eduardo Kac, hot or not? (spoiler alert: very hot)
    They specifically discuss the work 'Reabracadabra' (1985) which you can watch online via Rhizome: https://anthology.rhizome.org/reabracadabra
    'From Minitel to NFT’
    Henrique Faria Gallery
    Through Jun 18
    Main research by Camila.
    Pre-Internet Networks: CAPTAIN
    Season 1, Episode 7
    April 26, 2022
    Link →
    Camila shares her research on the Japanese videotex system CAPTAIN. The girls discuss competing videotex protocols, how to informatize a country, biased reporting, and if a network can be successful in its aims even if the actual system failed.
    Camila’s film ‘Vecino Vecino’ is premiering 6pm Thursday May 5th at Prismatic Ground experimental documentary festival in New York. Tickets and info here: https://www.screenslate.com/events/prismatic-ground-2022
    Main research by Camila.
    References
  • Arai, Yoshio. “History of the development of telecommunications infrastructure in Japan.” Netcom 33 (2019)
  • Baijal, Pradip. “From Nationalisation to Privatisation: UK and Japan.” Economic and Political Weekly 35, no. 13 (March 2000): 1101-1106
  • “Evolutionary Network Development of Japan's Computer Networking.” Japan - Germany Information Technology Forum, Oita Japan. Nov 8, 1994
  • Gabriel, Michael R. “Videotex and Teletex: Waiting for the 21st Century?” Educational Technology 28, no. 3 (March 1988): 27-31
  • Lehmann, Yves. “Videotex: A Japanese Lesson.” Telecommunications 28, iss. 7 (July 1994): 53-54
  • Morris-Suzuki, Tessa. “Beyond Computopia: Information, Automation and Democracy in Japan.” Kagan Paul International Limited, London. 1988
  • Ohlin, Tomas. “The Baby Networks: Nordic Positions Before the Internet.” 3rd History of Nordic Computing (Oct 2010): 278-286
  • Pollack, Andrew. “Technology: The Japanese Challenge; Japan’s Drive to Automate.” The New York Times, August 10, 1984. https://www.nytimes.com/1984/08/10/business/technology-the-japanese-challenge-japan-s-drive-to-automate.html
  • West, Joel, and Dedrick, Jason, and Kraemer, Kenneth L. “Reconciling Vision and Reality in Japan's NII Policy.” Center for Research on Information Technology and Organizations, University of California, Irvine (1996)
  • Pre-Internet Networks: Prestel
    Season 1, Episode 5
    March 29, 2022
    Link →
    Ana chats to Camila about Prestel, a nationwide information network developed by the UK Post Office. The videotex system was developed during the 1970s and for a brief time, the UK was at the forefront of intending to migrate its society online. However, the Conservative’s acts halted the development by privatising Telecommunication in 1979 and 1981 by Thatcher. The girls discuss policy loopholes, Prestel’s neglect in correlation to the UK’s political failures, as well as its significant impact in the global technical blossoming of online communication.
    Main research by Ana.
    References
  • “Prestel: The British Internet That Never Was”, Tom Lean, History Today, 2016, - https://www.historytoday.com/history-matters/prestel-british-internet-never-was
  • Pre-Internet Networks: Park Avenue (Bonus!)
    Season 1, Episode 6
    April 12, 2022
    Link →
    Camila tells Ana about the late 80s Teletext soap opera ‘Park Avenue’ written by Robbie Burns, which has been archived by Park Avenue Archives (TW: @ParkAvenueArk; http://www.newmailbox.co.uk/parkavenue/). They then read through some episodes and learn about the DRAMA happening on Park Avenue!
    Main research by Camila.
    Pre-Internet Networks: Prestel
    Season 1, Episode 5
    March 29, 2022
    Link →
    Ana chats to Camila about Prestel, a nationwide information network developed by the UK Post Office. The videotex system was developed during the 1970s and for a brief time, the UK was at the forefront of intending to migrate its society online. However, the Conservative’s acts halted the development by privatising Telecommunication in 1979 and 1981 by Thatcher. The girls discuss policy loopholes, Prestel’s neglect in correlation to the UK’s political failures, as well as its significant impact in the global technical blossoming of online communication.
    Main research by Ana.
    References
  • “Prestel: The British Internet That Never Was”, Tom Lean, History Today, 2016, - https://www.historytoday.com/history-matters/prestel-british-internet-never-was
  • Pre-Internet Networks: Pink Minitel (Bonus!)
    Season 1, Episode 4
    March 15, 2022
    Link →
    Camila and Ana delve deeper into the online world of Minitel this week with an exploration of the many sides of the “pink minitel” services provided on the network. Beginning with a discussion of Olivier Cheval’s 2019 short film “Rose Minitel” (and some Agnes Varda film chat), they then talk sexy chat rooms, digital labor, online dating, LGBTQ+ digital communities, and if love is actually real. Ooh la la!

    “I’ve found a new job. I work from home. I hit on men on Minitel... One franc per minute. After half an hour, I get a bonus. I get one bonus after the other. And I think of you.” - Rose Minitel, Olivier Cheval.
    Main research by Camila.
    References
  • Chaplin, Tamara. “Lesbians Online: Queer Identity and Community Formation on the French Minitel.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 23, no. 3 (September 2014): 451-472.
  • Chrisafis, Angelique. “France says farewell to the Minitel - the little box that connected a country.” The Guardian, June 28, 2012
  • Goldman, Alex [host]. “The French Connection.” Reply All, no. 10. January 17, 2015.
  • Nagy, Jeff. “Pink Chat: Networked Sex Work before the Internet.” Technology and Culture 62, no. 1 (January 2021): 57-81.
  • Tempest, Rone. “Minitel: Miracle or Monster?” Los Angeles Times, October 24, 1989.
  • “Rose Minitel.” Olivier Cheval. 2019. 26min.
  • “Minitel Computer, Online Dating.” Youtube, uploaded June 1, 2014.
  • "La carte de presse pour les employés du Minitel rose?", Archive INA, Youtube, uploaded May 23, 2014.
  • Pre-Internet Networks: Minitel
    Season 1, Episode 3
    March 01, 2022
    Link →
    After some hobby chat, Camila tells Ana about the French videotex network ‘Minitel’. Launched in the early 80s, it was the most successful version of an online service before the World Wide Web. While other similar networks struggled, this episode looks at how the specifics of Minitel allowed it to become integrated into everyday life and what happened when France began adopting the Internet.
    Main research by Camila.
    References
  • Amougou, Jules, and James S. Larson. “Comparing Implementation of Internet Diffusion in the United States and France: Policies, Beliefs, and Institutions.” Policy Research 25, no. 6 (2008): 563-578.
  • Arceneaux, Noah. Review of Minitel: Welcome to the Internet, by Julien Mailland and Kevin Driscoll. Journalism History 44, no. 1 (Spring 2018).
  • Benghozi, Pierre-Jean, and Christian Licoppe. “Technological National Learning: From Minitel to Internet.” In The Global Internet Economy, edited by Bruce Kogut, 153-189. MIT Press, 2003.
  • Cats-Baril, William L., and Tawfik Jelassi. “The French Videotex System Minitel: A Successful Implementation of a National Information Technology Infrastructure.” MIS Quarterly 18, no.1 (March 1994): 1-20.
  • Chrisafis, Angelique. “France says farewell to the Minitel – the little box that connected a country.” The Guardian, June 29, 2012.
  • Kessler, Jack. “Electronic Networks: A View from Europe.” Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science (April/May 1994): 26-27.
  • Mailland, Julien. “Minitel, the Open Network Before the Internet.” The Atlantic, June 16, 2017.
  • Mailland, Julien, and Kevin Driscoll. “Minitel: The Online World France Built Before the Web.” IEEE Spectrum, June 20, 2017. https://spectrum.ieee.org/minitel-the-online-world-france-built-before-the-web
  • Schofield, Hugh. “Minitel: The rise and fall of the France-wide web.” BBC News, June 28, 2012.
  • Pre-Internet Networks: OGAS - The National Automated System for Computation and Information Processing
    Season 1, Episode 2
    February 15, 2022
    Link →
    Ana and Camila chat about the development of a Soviet nationwide information network in the 60s that was meant to run a planned economy for the USSR. Built after Sputnik’s launch, it brought about Soviet cybernetics and promised a new era for Soviet sciences, mathematics economics and technology. Discussing the project’s termination due to inner-bureaucratic competition, this episode also looks at ARPANET’s simultaneous development; its surprisingly socialist structures of funding and collaborative mindsets that led to its success.
    Main research by Ana.
    References
  • “How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet”, Benjamin Peters, 2016
  • “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration”, Ed Catmull, 2014
  • “The Californian Ideology”, Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, 1995
  • Pre-Internet Networks: Project Cybersyn
    Season 1, Episode 1
    February 01, 2022
    Link →
    Camila and Ana explore Project Cybersyn – an early 70s socialist cybernetics project connecting factories in Allende's Chile. This is the first episode of our first season which will be focusing on pre-internet networks!
    Main research by Camila.
    References
  • Beckett, Andy. 'Santiago Dreaming'. The Guardian 8 September 2003
  • Eaton, George. 'Project Cybersyn: the afterlife of Chile’s socialist internet'. New Statesman August 2018
  • Evgeny, Morozov. 'The Planning Machine'. The New Yorker Vol. 90, Iss. 31 (October 2014)
  • Fablab Santiago ep. ‘The Counterculture Room’. Pavilion of Chile at the London Design Biennale 2016
  • Loeber, Katherina. 'Big Data, Algorithmic Regulation, and the History of the Cybersyn Project in Chile, 1971-1973'. Social Sciences 7, no.4:65 (April 2018)
  • Medina, eden. 'Computer Memory, Collective Memory: Recovering History through Chilean Computing'. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing October-December 2005
  • Medina, eden. 'Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende’s Chile'. MIT Press, 2011
  • Medina, eden. 'Designing Freepom, Regulating a Nation: Socialist Cybernetics in Allende’s Chile '. Journal of Latin American Studies Vol. 38 Iss. 3 (August 2006)
  • Credit & Links
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    Project management by Camila.
    Ana with the audio editing.
    Music by Nelson Guay (SoundCloud: fluxlinkages)

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