Home computer on the line. The West German BBS scene and the change of telecommunications in the 1980s

Matthias Röhr

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This paper explores the phenomenon of bulletin board systems (BBS) – home computers connected through the telephone network – in West Germany in the 1980s. Due to the openness of the US telephone network, the use of home computers as private communication devices became quite successful across the Atlantic. However, in West Germany, this practice conflicted with the state monopoly and its policy on telecommunications. This paper argues that this conflict was part of a structural change caused by the convergence of IT and telecommunications. The West German government saw this convergence as both a threat and a chance for the national IT and telecommunications industries, prompting it to adopt a telecommunications policy designed to challenge the dominant US IT industry.