Re: SV: [OPE] Studying unproductive labor: CEPR report

From: Paul Cockshott (
Date: Thu Feb 28 2008 - 11:22:48 EST

I think that this is factually wrong.

Whilst some early computers had government funding: Collosus at 
Bletchely Park devised
for breaking th 'Fish' code and Zuse's Z3 developed for the Luftwaffe, 
these models
were secret and had virtually no influence on comercially developed 

The first working programable computer, the Manchester Mark 1 or 1948 
was developed
by an academic group without military funding. The first comericially 
programmable computer Leo was developed by Lyons Teashops and derived from
an academic design at Cambridge University.

The best selling IBM computers of the 1950s the 700 series were an 
outgrowth of their business tabulator
line, the 7000 series developed for the NSA had little commercial 
impact, though it is
arguable that a couple of the top of the range 1960s machines produced 
by IBM used technologies
protoyped on 'Stretch' a machine developed for the NSA.

Disk drives, one of the crucial technologies for computers were developed
by IBM at the behest of one of their insurance company customers.
Manchester University as academic research exercise developed virtual memory
on the Atlas.

The microprocessor was developed by Intel in response to the request of 
a Japanese
desktop calculator company.

Firms like Feranti and GEC in Britain developed microprocessors shortly 
but these, targeted at the defence market, with its special requirements for
radiation hardening, never made a significant impact on commercial 

The same goes for the DARPA project VHSIC in the 80s, it developed chips 
were of some use in airforce radar, but which have had no general 
commercial carryover.

The most rapid development today comes from the needs, ironically, of the
home entertainment industry.

It is at least arguable, that the sucesses of US and UK industry in 
for war in WWII rested on the prior development of consumer mass production
industries -- car production, radio production and television production.

It is more often the skills developed for civilian use, that in time of 
war are converted
to warlike purposes rather than the reverse.

> > While military spinoffs can have a positive effect on productivity and
> > output I think there can be little doubt that had the military budget
> > been spent in civilian R&D instead the effects would have direct and
> > greater.
> Hi Dave Z:
> At least insofar as we're talking about capitalist economies, there
> is indeed room for doubt.  Most of the major technological advances
> of the 2nd half of the 20th Century (including rockets, jets, satellites,
> atomic power, computers, the Internet, radar, GPS, etc.)  were a
> consequence of military spending. Indeed, to the extent that
> government spending was key for the development of the computer
> then it could be fairly claimed that every _other_ technology 
> developed since
> which includes a microprocessor (and that means just about _all_
> new technologies) was an indirect consequence of military spending.  
> Had that money been spent on civilian R&D then other technologies
> would have indeed developed but there is no way of knowing whether
> the effects would have been greater. 
> In solidarity, Jerry
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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