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Caught Between Historical Experience and High Hopes: Automation at the Dutch Postal Cheque and Clearing Service, 1950-1965

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129877D
Original Publication Date: 1995-Jun-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 18 page(s) / 75K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

DIRK DE WIT: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Since the Netherlands lacks an indigenous computer industry, this article concentrates on the use of computing technologies. It deals specifically with the Dutch giro system, the country's initial step toward automation in the early 1950s. Automation was achieved in 1965. Several organizational processes and the development of computer technology throughout the fifties contributed to the delay of automation and the ultimate choice and implementation of more than 20 IBM 1401 computer systems. The theme sheds light on the importance of studying how computer technology is used as well as how the technologies are developed. Many accounts of the rise of the information society deal with technology. The history of computing has long focused primarily on the hardware and software aspects of data processing equipment or on the computer industry itself. Recently, however, the consumer demand underlying the diffusion of computer technology has been receiving more attention."; From the early 1950s, suppliers and customers of computer systems were in a ";learning by using"; situation, and the role of the using organizations appears especially important.2 In this article the user organization is seen as a mediating factor between the products of the computer industry and the computer systems in their functional use. The organization forms a selection environment for new technological developments, directly determining the success or failure of new technologies.3 This article analyzes an early Dutch user of computer technology, the Postal Cheque and Clearing Service (PCGD), an organization handling credit transfers. I will show how the embedding of information technology in an organization is effectuated by changes in the computer industry, by the characteristics of user organizations, and by negotiations between suppliers and customers.4 In contrast to practices in the US, credit transfers constitute an important form of payment in many European countries. Although commercial banks handle most transfers, post offices play an important role in payment systems. Giro banks operating under postal authorities have become very popular in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland.5 The PCGD formed part of the Dutch Post and Telephone Company (PTT) and makes an interesting case study for several reasons. It was a bureaucratic organization, seemingly averse to innovation; yet the automation of the PCGD was one of the largest, if not the largest, of the automation programs to take place in the Netherlands in the 1960s.6

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1995 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Caught Between Historical Experience and High Hopes: Automation at the Dutch Postal Cheque and Clearing Service, 1950-1965

DIRK DE WIT

Since the Netherlands lacks an indigenous computer industry, this article concentrates on the use of computing technologies. It deals specifically with the Dutch giro system, the country's initial step toward automation in the early 1950s. Automation was achieved in 1965. Several organizational processes and the development of computer technology throughout the fifties contributed to the delay of automation and the ultimate choice and implementation of more than 20 IBM 1401 computer systems. The theme sheds light on the importance of studying how computer technology is used as well as how the technologies are developed.

Many accounts of the rise of the information society deal with technology. The history of computing has long focused primarily on the hardware and software aspects of data processing equipment or on the computer industry itself. Recently, however, the consumer demand underlying the diffusion of computer technology has been receiving more attention." From the early 1950s, suppliers and customers of computer systems were in a "learning by using" situation, and the role of the using organizations appears especially important.2 In this article the user organization is seen as a mediating factor between the products of the computer industry and the computer systems in their functional use. The organization forms a selection environment for new technological developments, directly determining the success or failure of new technologies.3 This article analyzes an early Dutch user of computer technology, the Postal Cheque and Clearing Service (PCGD), an organization handling credit transfers. I will show how the embedding of information technology in an organization is effectuated by changes in the computer industry, by the characteristics of user organizations, and by negotiations between suppliers and customers.4

In contrast to practices in the US, credit transfers constitute an important form of payment in many European countries. Although commercial banks handle most transfers, post offices play an important role in payment systems. Giro banks operating under postal authorities have become very popular in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland.5 The PCGD formed part of the Dutch Post and Telephone Company (PTT) and makes an interesting case study for several reasons. It was a bureaucratic organization, seemingly averse to innovation; yet the automation of the PCGD was one of the largest, if not the largest, of the automation programs to take place in the Netherlands in the 1960s.6

Automation of the PCGD was successful: It became Europe's first fully automated giro service.

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