Digitalisation of German banking
Computer use in the savings banks of the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR, 1957-1991

Hardly any other technology has changed the German economy as much as digital computers. However, the process of digitalization goes back further than is generally assumed. By the early 1960s, for example, banks and savings banks in both German states had started digitizing their business processes.

Banks therefore stood for a broader trend in the German economy on its way to the digital age. How and why did companies in the Federal Republic and the GDR employ computer technology? Which kinds of interactions can be identified, i.e. how did digitalization affect companies, and how did the latter, in turn, affect the development of computer technology and software? Questions such as these are being examined through research in the history of computing.

Martin Schmitt’s study focuses on changes in the work place, from the labor market to work processes in companies, and on gender issues, for example in data collection. In addition, it looks at networking processes which, from the end of the 1970s onwards, have increased the interdependence of economic actors. Thirdly, it focuses on changes in spatial and temporal structures. A comparative view between East and West Germany will serve to determine the transformational effects of digitization beyond political systems.

Key Publications in English

1. Schmitt, Martin: „Banking the Future of Banking: Savings banks and the Digital Age in East and West Germany“, in: Dick van Lente (ed.): Prophets of Computing: Visions of Society Transformed by Computing, New York 2022.

2. Schmitt, Martin: „Socialist Life of a U.S. Army Computer in the GDR’s Financial Sector: Import of Western Information Technology into Eastern Europe in the Early 1960s“, in: Christopher Leslie/Martin Schmitt (ed.): Histories of Computing in Eastern Europe, Heidelberg/New York 2019 (IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology), S. 139–164.

3. Schmitt, Martin: „The Code of Banking. Software as the Digitalization of German Savings Banks“, in: Arthur Tatnall/Christopher Leslie (ed.): International Communities of Invention and Innovation, Cham 2016 (IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology 491), S. 141–164.

Personalbild von Martin Schmitt

History of Technology

Research and teaching fellow

Contact

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Martin Schmitt is research and teaching fellow at the department of History of Technology. He is working on the history of computing in East and West Germany using the example of the banking industry. His new project will be an environmental history of the late 19th Century in Germany and Spain.

By arrangement

since 04/2019

Research and teaching fellow, Technical University of Darmstadt

10/2018 – 03/2019

Research and teaching fellow, Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg

since 03/2018

Associated doctoral student at the Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam

06/2014 – 02/2018

Research and teaching fellow doctoral student at the Centre for Contemporary History, Potsdam. Supervisor: Prof. Frank Bösch

10/2009 – 05/2014

IT assistant at the Institute for Contemporary History, Tuebingen.

03/2008

Visiting student at the University of Cambridge, supervisor: Prof. Dr. Eckart Conze.

09/2007 – 08/2008, 05/2009 – 05/2014

Library staff member at the University Library, Tübingen.

10/2005 – 05/2014

Magister (M.A.) program in Modern History (major), informatics and political science (minors) at the Universities of Tuebingen and Madrid

Books and edited volumes

Die Digitalisierung der Kreditwirtschaft. Computereinsatz in den Sparkassen der Bundesrepublik und der DDR 1957-1991, Göttingen: Wallstein-Verlag 2021 (Medien und Gesellschaftswandel im 20. Jahrhundert 15).

Internet im Kalten Krieg. Eine Vorgeschichte des globalen Kommunikationsnetzes. transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2016.

Histories of Computing in Eastern Europe. Springer, Cham 2019 (ed. with Christopher Leslie)

Articles (peer reviewed & others)

The Future of Digital Banking: German Savings Banks in East- and West-Germany. In: Dick van Lente (ed.): Prophets of Computing: Visions of Society Transformed by Computing. (forthcoming 2022)

„Umweltgeschichte der Digitalisierung in der DDR“, in: Grabarits, Miriam und Detlev Mares (Hrsg.): Quellen zur Umweltgeschichte, Frankfurt a. M.: Wochenschau-Verlag 2022 (Fundus – Quellen für den Geschichtsunterricht). (forthcoming 2022)

„Von der Region in die Republik? Die Bedeutung der Region in der Frühphase der Digitalisierung in Deutschland am Beispiel der DDR-Finanzorgane“, in: Frese, Matthias, Thomas Küster und Malte Thießen (Hrsg.): Varianten des Wandels. Neue Perspektiven auf die Region in der jüngsten Zeitgeschichte 1970-2020, forthcoming 2022.

Aufbrüche in das Digitale Zeitalter. Computernutzung in Deutschland (opens in new tab), 1951-1967, in: ZCOM-Stiftung (Hg.): 25 Jahre Computer + Museum in Hoyerswerda, Sächsische Landeszentrale für politische Bildung 2020.

Computernutzung in der DDR. Die Geschichte des VVB Maschinelles Rechnen am Beispiel des Potsdamer Rechenzentrums, in: Sabrow, Martin/Bösch, Frank (Hgg.): Zeiträume 2020, Göttingen 2020 (Potsdamer Almanach des Leibniz-Zentrums für Zeithistorische Forschung), S. 123–140.

Die Digitalisierung der Kreditwirtschaft. Computereinsatz in den Sparkassen der Bundesrepublik und der DDR, 1957-1991 (opens in new tab), in: Newsletter der GWMT 02/2020, S. 46-57.

Die Geschichte des Potsdamer Rechenzentrums: Sozialistische Computernutzung und die Digitalisierung in Ostdeutschland, in: Oswalt, Philipp (Hg.): Lernort Garnisonkirche, Potsdam 2020.

Socialist Life of a U.S. Army Computer in the GDR’s Financial Sector: Import of Western Information Technology into Eastern Europe in the Early 1960s. In: Christopher Leslie, Martin Schmitt (ed.): Histories of Computing in Eastern Europe. Springer, Cham 2019, S. 139-164.

„Digitalisierung in den Sparkassen Ost-und West-Berlins“, in: Wissenschaftsförderung der Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe e. V. (ed.): Wendezeiten. Sparkassen in historischen Umbrüchen am Beispiel Berlins, Stuttgart: Deutscher Sparkassenverlag 2019 (Sparkassen in der Geschichte, Abteilung 1: Dokumentation 33), S. 85–108.

Vernetzte Bankenwelt. Computerisierung in der Kreditwirtschaft der Bundesrepublik und der DDR. [Banking Networks: Computerization in the East- and West-German banking sector] In: Frank Bösch (ed.): Wege in die digitale Gesellschaft: Computernutzung in der Bundesrepublik 1955-1990, Göttingen 2018, p. 126-147.

Der Wert des Kunden. Computerisierung in bundesdeutschen Sparkassen am Beispiel der Privatkreditvergabe, [Customer values. Computerization in the East- and West-German credit service sector] in: Bösch, Frank; Sabrow, Martin: ZeitRäume 2017 (=Potsdamer Almanach des Zentrums für Zeithistorische Forschung), Göttingen, S. 119–134.

The Informational Men, in: Martin Degeling, Julius Othmer, Andreas Weich, Bianca Westermann (Hg.): Profile. Interdisziplinäre Beiträge, Lüneburg 2017, S. 59-80.

The Code of Banking. Software as the Digitalization of German Savings Banks, in: Tatnall, Arthur/Leslie, Christopher (eds.): International communities of invention and innovation (= IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology 491), New York, NY. 2016, p. 141–164.

Digitalgeschichte Deutschlands. Ein Forschungsbericht. In: Technikgeschichte 83, Heft 1 (2016), p. 33 – 70 [with Julia Erdogan, Thomas Kasper, Janine Funke]

Reviews & conference reports

Exibition review of: Back to Future. Technikvisionen zwischen Fiktion und Realität, 03.12.2021 – 28.08.2022 Berlin, in: H-Soz-Kult, 15.08.2022, <www.hsozkult.de/exhibitionreview/id/rezausstellungen-389>.

Review of: Fickers, Andreas/Griset, Pascal: Communicating Europe. Technologies, Information, Events, Basingstoke, Hampshire 2019, in: Francia-Recensio 2/2022, 19.–21. Jahrhundert – Histoire contemporaine, DOI: https://doi.org/10.11588/frrec.2022.2.89230.

Conference report: Ethik der Digitalstadt – Herausforderung der Datensouveränität, 03.12.2021 – 03.12.2021 Darmstadt, in: H-Soz-Kult, 10.02.2022.

Review of: David Gugerli: Wie die Welt in den Computer kam: Zur Entstehung digitaler Wirklichkeit [How the world came to be in the computer: On the creation of digital reality], in: Technology and Culture 62 (2021), H. 2, S. 657–658.

Review of: Bernardo Bátiz-Lazo: Cash and Dash. How ATMs and Computers Changed Banking (opens in new tab), in: Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte 107 (2020), H. 4, S. 541–543.

Conference report: HT 2018: Digital Humanities in der Analyse gespaltener Gesellschaften. Beispiele aus der Praxis, 25.09.2018 – 28.09.2018 Münster, in: H-Soz-Kult, 07.12.2018.

Review of: Haigh, Thomas et. al.: ENIAC in action: making and remaking the modern computer (=History of computing), Cambridge, MA; London, 2016, in: Technikgeschichte 85, Heft 1 (2018), S. 77-78.

Review of: Yost, Jeffrey R.: Making IT Work. A History of the Computer Services Industry. Cambridge 2017, in: H-Soz-Kult, 01.03.2018. https://www.hsozkult.de/publicationreview/id/reb-25927

Conference report: 30 Jahre Transmediale – immer noch flüchtig? 02.05.2017 – 05.02.2017 Berlin, in: Zeitgeschichte-online, Februar 2017, http://www.zeitgeschichte-online.de/kommentar/30-jahre-transmediale-immer-noch-fluechtig

Conference report: HT 2016: Wege in die Computergesellschaft. Folgen digitaler Datenerfassung seit den 1950er Jahren, 20.09.2016 – 23.09.2016 Hamburg, in: H-Soz-Kult, 15.10.2016, http://www.hsozkult.de/conferencereport/id/tagungsberichte-6755

Conference report: Die Zukunft der Digitalgeschichte, 10.06.2016 – 12.06.2016 Siegen, in: H-Soz-Kult, 05.10.2016, http://www.hsozkult.de/conferencereport/id/tagungsberichte-6727

Identity in the Digital Age. Exibition review of „Nervöse Systeme – Quantifiziertes Leben und die soziale Frage“. In: Zeitgeschichte-online, [April 2016].

Kline, Ronald R.: The Cybernetics Moment. Or Why We Call Our Age the Information Age. Baltimore 2015, in: H-Soz-Kult, 25.02.2016.

Conference report: Utopie & Alltag. Perspektiven auf Ideal und Praxis im 20. Jahrhundert, 23.04.2015 – 24.04.2015 Potsdam, in: H-Soz-Kult, 29.05.2015, (with Janine Funke, geb. Noack)

Review of: Clemens Apprich / Felix Stalder (eds.): Vergessene Zukunft. Radikale Netzkulturen in Europa, Bielefeld: transcript 2012, in: sehepunkte 13 (2013), Nr. 5, 15.05.2013, www.sehepunkte.de/2013/05/21457.html

Digitalisation of German banking

Computer technology in East and West German savings banks, 1957–1991

PhD project

Hardly any other technology has changed the German economy as much as the digital computers. However, the process of digitalization goes back further than is generally assumed. By the early 1960s, for example, banks and savings banks in both German states had started digitizing their business processes.

Banks therefore stood for a broader trend in the German economy on its way to the digital age. How and why did companies in the Federal Republic and the GDR employ computer technology? Which kinds of interactions can be identified, i.e. how did digitalization affect companies, and how did the latter, in turn, affect the development of computer technology and software? Questions such as these are being examined through research in the history of computing.

Martin Schmitt’s study focuses on changes in the work place, from the labor market to work processes in companies, and on gender issues, for example in data collection. In addition, it looks at networking processes which, from the end of the 1970s onwards, have increased the interdependence of economic actors. Thirdly, it focuses on changes in spatial and temporal structures. A comparative view between East and West Germany will serve to determine the transformational effects of digitization beyond political systems.

Completed projects

The Internet is seen as the dominant medium of communication of the 21st Century. But over the course of its history its meaning has shifted from being regarded as a harbinger of freedom to being eyed as a tool of surveillance and control. Where did this historical process originate? This question was examined by historicizing the early developments of the Arpanet as predecessor of the Internet in the USA between 1968-1975. The findings of my research suggest that besides the military actors and scientists, also the counterculture participated in building the network. All actors alike conceptualized the Internet as a cybernetic system in the Cold War. Tendencies towards freedom as well as towards certain levels of control lay at the very foundations of its infrastructure, which was demonstrated by an in-depth historical and technical analysis.

This project was located at the Department of History’s Seminar für Zeitgeschichte of the Eberhard Karls University at Tübingen, Germany, and completed under the supervision of Prof. Anselm Doering-Manteuffel and Prof. Klaus Gestwa. In 2016, its publication in German was generously funded by the Leibniz-Centre for Contemporary History, Potsdam.

Award of the Society for the History of Science, Medicine and Technology 2020 for his dissertation „Digitalisierung der Kreditwirtschaft. Computereinsatz in den Sparkassen der Bundesrepublik und der DDR, 1957-1991“.

Award for Young Researchers in History of Communication 2016, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft (DGPuk) for his master thesis: „Internet in the Cold War“ (“Die Frühgeschichte des Internet”).

Second prize at the poster competition 2016 at the 51st Convention of German Historians, funded by Gerda Henkel Foundation; poster presentation: “Digitalization of German banking”.

  • Vice Chair of IFIP Working Group 9.7 „History of Computing“
  • German Historical Association, Working Group “Digital History”
  • Working Group “Data and Networks”, Society for Media Studies
  • German Informatics Society, Working Group Informatics and History of Computing", Vice Chair
  • SIGCIS – Special Interest Group Computers, Information and Society
TypeTitle
SeminarIntroduction to Modern History of Technology (2)
Reading courseTraces of Technology and Nature: New sources for historians

TU Darmstadt

Winter term 2022/23

Seminar: “Introduction to modern history of technology”

Reading course: Traces of Technology and Nature: New sources for historians (in English)

Summer term 2022

2x Class: “Introduction to modern history of technology”

Reading course: Gathering Data: Historic practices and technologies of measurement and recording in modernity

Winter term 2020/2021

Seminar: World Wide Wood. A global history of the environment from a data perspective, 1800-1914. (in English)

Class: “Introduction to modern history of technology”

Summer term 2021

2x Class: “Introduction to modern history of technology”

Winter term 2020/2021

Seminar: “Der Planet brennt – seit 100 Jahren? Umwelt- und Technikgeschichte des späten 19. Jahrhunderts mit Hilfe datengetriebener Analysewerkzeuge”

Reading course (engl.): “Traces of the Digital Age: New Sources for the Contemporary Historian”

Summer term 2020

2x Class: “Introduction to modern history of technology”

Winter term 2019/2020

Class: “Introduction to modern history of technology”

Summer term 2019

Class: “Einführung in die moderne Technikgeschichte”

University of Potsdam:

Winter term 2015/16

Seminar class: “Aufbrüche in das digitale Zeitalter: Computernutzungen im Kalten Krieg“ (with Frank Bösch)

Winter term 2017/18

Seminar class ”Theorie und Methodik der zeitgeschichtlichen Forschung“ (cover for Frank Bösch)

Freie Universität Berlin:

Summer term 2017

Workshop ”Introduction to Digital Humanities. How to do global history in the Digital Age“ (with Thomas Werneke at the Global History Student Conference 2017)

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:

Winter term 2018/19

Class: ”Aufbrüche in das digitale Zeitalter: Computernutzungen im Kalten Krieg“

Helmut-Schmidt-Universität Hamburg:

Winter term 2018/19

Class: “Computerisierung zwischen Militär, Industrie und Gesellschaft, 1940-1980”