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date: 19 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article traces the intersections of Western computer technology and everyday life in communist-era Czechoslovakia. It follows computer professionals and hobbyists who participated in bottom-up computing practices, and it discusses the improvised, do-it-yourself aesthetics of the artifacts they created. It focuses on three key examples: the printing of biorhythm charts, which provided the first personal encounters with computing to many ordinary citizens in the 1970s; hardware tinkering, which remedied the scarcity of computer equipment by salvaging and repurposing local resources; and production of local computer games, which built on Western templates but engaged with local themes, sometimes even subverting the authority of the communist party and ironically appropriating its propaganda. It concludes that computer enthusiasts were ahead of party officials in realizing that computers are not just data processing machines but also tools for making and dissemination of culture.

Keywords: Czechoslovakia, Soviet bloc, biorhythm, hobby computing, material culture, bricolage, do-it-yourself activities, informal distribution, computer games, hardware tinkering

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