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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg March 11, 2021

Innovationsmotor Medientechnik – Von der Schreibmaschine zur «Mittleren Datentechnik» bei der Siemag Feinmechanische Werke (1950 bis 1969)

Media technology as motor of innovation – From typewriter to «medium data technology» at Siemag Feinmechanische Werke (1950 to 1969)
Christian Henrich-Franke


The second half of the 20th century is commonly considered to be a time in which German companies lost their innovative strength, while promising new technologies presented an enormous potential for innovation in the US. The fact that German companies were quite successful in the production of medium data technology and had considerable influence on the development of electronic data processing was neglected by business and media historians alike until now. The article analyses the Siemag Feinmechanische Werke (Eiserfeld) as one of the most important producers of the predecessors to said medium data technologies in the 1950s and 1960s. Two transformation processes regarding the media – from mechanic to semiconductor and from semiconductor to all-electronic technology – are highlighted in particular. It poses the question of how and why a middling family enterprise such as Siemag was able to rise to being the leading provider for medium data processing office computers despite lacking expertise in the field of electrical engineering while also facing difficult location conditions. The article shows that Siemag successfully turned from its roots in heavy industry towards the production of innovative high technology devices. This development stems from the company’s strategic decisions. As long as their products were not mass-produced, a medium-sized family business like Siemag could hold its own on the market through clever decision-making which relied on flexible specialization, targeted license and patent cooperation as well as innovative products, even in the face of adverse conditions. Only in the second half of the 1960s, as profit margins dropped due to increasing sales figures and office machines had finally transformed into office computers, Siemag was forced to enter cooperation with Philips in order to broaden its spectrum and merge the production site in Eiserfeld into a larger business complex.

Published Online: 2021-03-11
Published in Print: 2021-03-26

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