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Archives:ICL and the American Challenge: British Government Policies for the Computer Industry, 1945-1985

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This article describes the policies of successive British governments in relation to computer technology, focusing on the story of International Computers Limited (ICL).  By the late 1940s it was becoming clear that computers and electronic data processing would become significant economic activities, perhaps ofa similar magnitude to pharmaceuticals, aerospace, electronics, or office machinery. While the United Kingdom had maintained a reasonable position in the first three of these industries, it had always been a net importer ofadvanced office machinery. While the existence of a national information-technology industry had significant economic benefits for the balance of payments, there was also a political objective in ensuring that the United Kingdom had a world-class indigenous computer industry. The reasons for this have never been quantified, but they relate to feelings of national pride, arguments about spin-off, and the need for self-sufficiency in defense procurement.


Martin Campbell-Kelly, "ICL and the American Challenge: British Government Policies for the Computer Industry, 1945-1985," in Technological Competitiveness: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives on Electrical, Electronics, and Computer Industries (Piscataway, NJ: IEEE Press, 1993), 105-118. 


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