Modeling computers and computer models: Manufacturing economic-planning projects in cold war taiwan, 1959-1968

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This article traces the process in which Taiwanese economic bureaucrats, a Cornell economics professor, and pioneering computer users worked together to visualize, represent, and make sense of economic activities in Taiwan through inter-industry input-output tables. The article highlights three ways in which the production of economic knowledge was contingent on computer power and geopolitics. First, it unpacks the participation of Taiwanese historical actors at the frontlines of Cold War economic competition between Taiwan and China. Second, the article reveals how U.S. and UN aid provided the necessary technological resources for relevant econometric calculations. Finally, the stochastic nature of economic planning is illustrated in the constant adjustment of inter-industry tables to the capacity of available computers for its arduous calculation and interpretation of incomprehensive data. In sum, this article elaborates on the critical role of computing technology during the Cold War, especially in an East Asian geopolitical context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to) S66-S99
JournalTechnology and Culture
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The econometrician’s cross-Pacific trip to Taiwan required a readied technical environment, including a workable and capable electronic digital computer, programmers, and an appropriate dataset. Li was fortunate that the CIECD could offer him an IBM 1620 computer and the service of a programmer, Yun-Tzong Chen. Chen graduated from NCTU in 1962 and, in 1964, worked as a research assistant at NCTU. As the computer was sponsored by the UN technical-aid program, Chen obtained his expertise through the material and educational resources provided by the same pro-

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by the Society for the History of Technology. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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