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.