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The role of the State in the creation of the computer industry


james5001

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Computers, and the different, wide-ranging technology which was created as a result of this industry, has frequently been shown as an example of the benefits which capitalism, private enterprise and risk taking can bring. But if one starts to scratch the surface of this topic, one comes to a different conclusion.

Like every industry, its start-off point is the most crucial in deciding whether it survives or not. At the start, the development of the semiconductor (which is the building block of computer chips) was massively subsidised by the U.S. military. ''In its early years, up to 100 percent of the [semiconductor] industry's output was purchased by the military, and even as late as 1968 the military claimed nearly 40 percent.''-Laura D'Andrea Tyson, Who's Bashing Whom?: Trade Conflict in High-Technology Industries, Washington: Institute for International Economics, 1992. She goes on to say how ''The willingness and ability of the U.S. government to purchase chips in quantity at premium prices allowed a growing number of companies to refine their production skills and develop elaborate manufacturing facilities. . . .''

The military remained the biggest buyer of these leading edge parts during the 1960's, with the military ''funding covered an estimated 85 percent of overall American R&D in electronics. . . .''-Tyson.

Computer development was incredibly expensive at the time, so much so that without the State to massively subsidize it, it would have been seen as too risky for corporations to invest in. This huge spending continued on for decades, with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) encouraging universities and private companies to build technology, with research grants of 1.5 billion dollars handed out in 1992 alone.
''Throughout the Reagan and much of the Bush Administrations, Congress pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into DARPA, enabling the agency to work hand in hand with industry on technologies that would be critical not just to defense but to U.S. competitiveness in civilian markets as well (my bold)''- Elizabeth Corcoran, "Computing's controversial patron," Science, April 2, 1993, with Andrew Pollack calling DARPA ''the closest thing this nation has to Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry''.

The Star Wars, or Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) project was another roundabout way of massively subsidising the high technology industry, with Army Colonel Robert W. Parker, director of resource management in the office of SDI saying "One way or another, 80% of our money is going to the private sector."(Dave Griffiths, Evert Clark, and Alan Hall, "Why Star Wars Is A Shot In The Arm For Corporate R&D).
Malcolme W. Browne, "The Star Wars Spinoff" (cover story), in the New York Times Magazine, on August 24, 1986 stated that ''It is estimated that adapted Star Wars technology will eventually yield private-sector sales of $5 trillion to $20 trillion. . . .'' (my bold). ''To get all the necessary advances, it (SDI) will pump 3% to 4% of its projected budget [$26 billion] over the next five years into pushing innovations in technologies...''(my bold)-Dave Griffiths, Evert Clark, and Alan Hall, "Why Star Wars Is A Shot In The Arm For Corporate R&D," Business Week, April 8, 1985.


This Defense spending had little to do with National Security. It was mainly to do with the taxpayer pumping vast amounts of money (much of it no strings attached) into developing technologies which would then be sold back to the taxpayer. The Star Wars ''plan'' would never work and wasn't expected to work, maybe by Reagan himself, but by no-one else. ''The best evidence indicates that . . . a space-based defense has no chance of working as envisioned by President Reagan''-William J. Broad, "Star Wars Is Coming, But Where Is It Going?," New York Times Magazine, December 6, 1987, p. 80.

This Defense R and D spending is still going on, with 10's of billions of dollars spent every year to largely subsidise big industry. Think of what that money could be used for if it went into social spending projects.
 
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googolplex

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There is nothing wrong with spending on R and D, it's mainly specific, it can benefit private enterprise, social spending projects (although beneficial to an extent), can be a black hole.
 

darkhorse

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When you say the 'State' you mean the US Government
And you are opposed to R&D spending by the US State on IT...
But that spending has created the internet which is the medium in which you choose to voice your opinion - which make you a hypocrite
End of story
Freak
 

General Mayhem

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When you say the 'State' you mean the US Government
And you are opposed to R&D spending by the US State on IT...
But that spending has created the internet which is the medium in which you choose to voice your opinion- which make you a hypocrite
End of story
Freak
Anne.
 

michijo

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Of course the military, as everyone knows, invented the damn internet.

I am an American and find the arguments people make in the USA about whether or not private is better than state to be very strange. Mostly, I think they are cocked up by Libertarians and rich people. Otherwise, I would never even think to question whether or not the state is bad. After all, it is a natural result of organization. Just as any group is formed around a specific goal. The US government used to control many corporations. The US state invented the "corporation". If something needed doing, building, etc, a corporation would be formed, utilized, then disbanded. Corporations never outlived their usefulness.

Without socialism mixed with Capitalism, we would all work like slaves. Only the socialists gave us humane work hours. Without socialism, there would be child labor in the USA, just as my great great grandfather worked as a child laborer in coal mines in Pennsylvania before the practice of employing children was outlawed. Who knows but that the Libertarians would destroy public schools and allow child labor again. It sounds like a real trip down memory lane.
 

jmcc

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Tens of billions of Dollars that create jobs or tens of billions of Dollars that are given to workshy gobsh!tes and the useless politically correct because they are "entitled" to it? It is a complex issue. :) And it is too late in the night to try figure it all out now.
 

BlackLion

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The video game industry/computers/internet all come from military spending.
 
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Dylan2010

meh, its a bit like saying if it wasnt for WW1 and WW2 we would still be flying around in biplanes. It would have happened anyway, the flipside is if all the waste of the Cold War had been left with the people the best and brightest would have been working on useful R&D and not dumb military projects.
 

firefly123

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meh, its a bit like saying if it wasnt for WW1 and WW2 we would still be flying around in biplanes. It would have happened anyway, the flipside is if all the waste of the Cold War had been left with the people the best and brightest would have been working on useful R&D and not dumb military projects.
'dumb' military projects? Like the one you are using to communicate? There was no private sector reason to create the Internet until it was there and computers got smaller and cheaper ( thanks to the private sector).
The big ideas and initial funding came from government and public works and they were refined and improved once they started to make money. Space is going the same way. Is it really so hard for people to acknowledge this or does it go against the ideology so much that it does not compute?
 
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euryalus

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I thought that "Colossus", the World's first programmable electronic digital computer was created by the British (not the American) state in order to read the German codes during World War Two? It was nothing to do with capitalism, which is interested only in maximising short-term profits for the already-rich.
 

Thomaso12

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meh, its a bit like saying if it wasnt for WW1 and WW2 we would still be flying around in biplanes. It would have happened anyway, the flipside is if all the waste of the Cold War had been left with the people the best and brightest would have been working on useful R&D and not dumb military projects.
Those scientists have spent their time well, since we seen in history after any major war technology rapidly grows, since we develop new ideas to compete against each other but the idea of them inventing the bi planes or somthing else like it if their hadn't been a war seems questionable as it might of happened or not.
 
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Dylan2010

Those scientists have spent their time well, since we seen in history after any major war technology rapidly grows, since we develop new ideas to compete against each other but the idea of them inventing the bi planes or somthing else like it if their hadn't been a war seems questionable as it might of happened or not.
Wars put the economy on hold and how do you calculate the loss of talent because they get killed. The idea that wars accelerate progress at a greater rate is absurd
 

jmcc

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I thought that "Colossus", the World's first programmable electronic digital computer was created by the British (not the American) state in order to read the German codes during World War Two? It was nothing to do with capitalism, which is interested only in maximising short-term profits for the already-rich.
Maybe not even the first - Konrad Zuse might have beaten them to it. However Colossus was not a computer that the average person today would recognise as a computer and it was quite application specific.
 

jmcc

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Wars put the economy on hold and how do you calculate the loss of talent because they get killed. The idea that wars accelerate progress at a greater rate is absurd
From a technological viewpoint, wars do accelerate progress because it is often the side with the best weapons that wins. Fielding a bigger army is no damned use if the opponent can drop one bomb on it and wipe it out. War and competition are at the heart of evolution. If there wasn't a continual pressure to fight for resources, then we'd still be running around some savanah in Africa. War, whether you like it or not, forces progress because it offers two simple choices: innovate or die.
 

Analyzer

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Charles Baggage invented the inference engine, which was the basis of machine based computation.
 

euryalus

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Charles Baggage invented the inference engine, which was the basis of machine based computation.
I think you mean Charles Babbage. His computing machine was of course mechanical, unlike Colossus, which was elctronic.
 

james5001

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There is nothing wrong with spending on R and D, it's mainly specific, it can benefit private enterprise, social spending projects (although beneficial to an extent), can be a black hole.
I didn't say there was. There is something wrong in pretending that it is for Defense.
 
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