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Punched cards for professional European offices: revisiting the dynamics of information technology diffusion from the United States to Europe, 1889-1918

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This paper compares the immediate success of the diffusion of punched cards in the United States in 1890 with their hesitant reception in Europe until 1918. This difference has so far been understood as a reflection of European backwardness but, as this paper argues, is better understood as an indication of more efficient European bureaucracies, both public and private. Further, the spread of punched card equipment in Europe until the 1900s was impeded by the absence of agencies in Europe to handle sales and maintenance. The analysis also shows that, even after 1918, the spread of punched cards in Europe was not a simple infusion of US technology. European agencies contributed significantly to the shaping of the technology.
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Keywords: Europe; USA; efficient European bureaucracies; punched cards; technology diffusion

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-12-01

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