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Siegen University Workshop. Beyond ENIAC: Early Digital Platforms & Practices, June 10-12

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Title: Beyond ENIAC: Early Digital Platforms & Practices
Dates: June 10-12, 2016
Location: Ludwig Wittgenstein House, Kohlbettstr. 15, 57068 Siegen, Germany (map link)
Organizer: Thomas Haigh (
Sponsor: Collaborative research center "Media of Cooperation" of Siegen University.

The publication of ENIAC In Action: Making and Remaking the Modern Computer (Haigh, Priestley & Rope, 2016) provides an opportunity to showcase new work on the history of computing and explore the place such work within media studies and computer science, the two key components of Siegen University’s new School of Media and Information. During the workshop many of Europe’s leading scholars of computing history will present their latest research to each other and participate in a series of roundtable discussions structured to provide lively interdisciplinary engagement. Early work on the history of computing was carried out by computers scientists and pioneers. It focused on technical analysis of the computers of the 1940s and 50s. As the history of computing has matured as a scholarly field its focus has shifted to social and cultural analysis and to later time periods. The shift reduced computer scientist Donald Knuth to tears, shed because history was being “dumbed down." Now a new generation of scholars is returning to explore the world of early digital platforms and practices, combining careful attention to materiality and technical concerns with the broader perspectives of scholarly history. This trend creates new opportunities to situate studies of the early digital within media studies, where scholars recognize that the modernn world is mediated by the affordances of digital platforms, and within computer science where more scholars may come to share Knuth's sense that historical knowledge is the foundation of deep technical understanding.

Registration: A desk will be manned in Ludwig Wittgenstein House, just inside the door, from 16:30 on Friday where you can collect name badges and seek help. On Saturday and Sunday there should be someone on the desk throughout the day. There is no registration fee, but non-invited participants must pay for meals directly to the restaurants. Credit cards are not so widely accepted in Germany, so please bring a debit card or plenty of Euros.

All events take place in room US-D-321. Follow signs for "ENIAC WORKSHOP".

Friday June 10

14:40-16:45 Informal social event for early arrivals. Meet in the lobby of the Ramada hotel by 14:40 for a short walk through the old town area to the Siegerlandmuseum castle. Weather permitting we will admire the gardens and the view and pop into the museum for a few highlights including some Reubens paintings. Then we will make our way down the hill to the building where the workshop is being held, arriving shortly before the opening plenary.

17:00-19:00 Roundtable discussion: "What does the history of IT have to say to media studies and computer science?" (click here for details)

  • Liesbeth de Mol, CNRS/STL, Université de Lille
  • Carolin Gerlitz, University of Amsterdam
  • Sebastian Gießmann, Siegen University
  • Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee & Siegen University (Moderator)
  • Volkmar Pipek, Siegen University (slides)
  • Erhard Schüttpelz, Siegen University
  • Matti Tedre, Stockholm University

20:00 Dinner: Restaurant Bar (the name of the restaurant, not just a generic description). Löhrstraße 51, 57072 Siegen. 

Saturday June 11

9:00 – 11:00 ENIAC in Action

  • Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee & Siegen University: “The Lost Labors of ENIAC”
  • Mark Priestley: “A History of ENIAC in Three Programs”
  • Discussion

11:30 – 13:00 Roundtable: Origins of the Operating System

  • Gerard Alberts, University of Amsterdam
  • Maarten Bullynck, SPHERE, Paris 8
  • Pierre Mounier Kuhn, CNRS & Paris-Sorbonne

13:00 – 14:30 Lunch, Wirtshaus am Oberen Schlos. Oberes Schloss 1, DE-57072 Siegen.

14:30 – 16:30: Works in Progress Session

  • Liesbeth De Mol, CNRS/STL, Université de Lille, “A Small History of Small Machines.” (download)
  • Ksenia Tatarchenko, Geneva University, “‘The Computer Does Not Believe in Tears’: Soviet Programming, Professionalization and Gendering of Authority.” (paper) (images)
  • Edgar Daylight & G. Primiero, “Category Mistakes in Computer Science.” (download)
  • Mark Priestley, "The Origins of Programming Language Styles." (download)

17:00-18:30 Public talk by Campbell-Kelly, University of Warwick, "The Evolution of Programming Practice on the EDSAC: Insights from the National Museum of Computing Replica Project" followed by discussion.

19:00 Dinner, Restaurant Münzwerk.Morleystr. 4, 57072 Siegen.

Sunday June 12:

9:00-11:00: Works in Progress Session

  • Tristan Thielmann, Siegen University, "Appresenting Digits: The ENIAC Display" (download)
  • Thomas Haigh & Mark Priestley, "What Was Colossus, and Why Should We Care?" (download)
  • Matti Tedre, Stockholm University, "Shifting Foci in CSE Between the 1940s and 1970s" (download)

11:30-13:00: Round table: Computing and the History of Science

  • Edgar Daylight
  • Maarten Bullynck, SPHERE, Paris 8
  • Ksenia Tatarchenko, Geneva University

13:00 to 14:30: Lunch, Wirtshaus am Oberen Schloss. Oberes Schloss 1, DE-57072 Siegen.

Informal post-lunch discussion of possible follow-up activities for those who can stay longer.


Lene Faust <> is in charge of arrangements. Urgent questions are best sent to who will be on-site throughout the workshop. If you need help please call Katharina on +49 (0)1732566673. Thomas Haigh can be reached on +49 (0)1573 1834116 Email access will be available onsite.

Directions to Siegen University are on its website: However the workshop events are all in Ludwig Wittgenstein House, which is in the downtown area rather than the main university campus. It is about a ten minute walk from the train station. This Google maps link should help you get there if you need to come directly from the train station.

Participants will stay at the Ramada Hotel, Kampenstrasse 83, Siegen, 57072. +49 27 150110

From there to the Ludwig Wittgenstein Haus (Kohlbettstr. 15)

By car: From the car park turn left into Kampenstraße and left again at the next crossing. Stay on Sandstraße for approx. 1 km and then turn left into Obergraben. At the end of the road turn left and after a hundred meters you will find the castle square with access to Ludwig Wittgenstein Haus to your left. There are a limited number of parking spaces on the left as you enter the courtyard.
By bus: Outside the Ramada Hotel you find the bus stop Kaisergarten with direct buses to Siegen main station. From there, make your way through Bahnhof-straße, cross the main road and walk up the hill towards the castle. On your right you will find the castle square with access to Ludwig Wittgenstein Haus.

Note, the directions above were given to me by Siegen University but even when armed with them I found this building a little confusing to locate. You will see signs around the city center with the unversity logo, pointing to the Campus Unteres Schloss, of which this building is part. The confusing thing is that the "Ludwig Wittgenstein House" name is recently adopted and does not yet seem to have made it onto signs or doors of this building! It is just headed "Kohlbettstr. 15, Eingang X" (where X depends on which door you found) with a University of Siegen logo (a blue U combined with an arrow). Do NOT go into the temptingly named "Kreis Siegen-Wittgenstein" next door -- this is a health insurance office.

"Whereof one cannot speak," resolved the building sign, "thereof one must be silent." And it was. So, despite the complete lack of Wittgenstein, you will nevertheless have reached the right building when you find a sign like one of these

Pointing to an a nameless door like one of these


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