When Computers Became Dangerous: The Swedish Computer Discourse of the 1960s

Lars Ilshammar


During the 1960s, Swedish society underwent a rapid and revolutionary computerisation process. Having been viewed as a harmless tool in the service of the engineering sciences during the first part of the decade, the computer became, during the second part, a symbol of the large-scale technology society and its downsides. When the controversy reached its peak in 1970, it was the threats to privacy that above all came into focus. This debate resulted in the adoption of the world’s first data act in the early 1970s. This paper will study and analyse the Swedish computer discourse during the 1960s, with special focus on the establishment of the Data Act. The core issues are what factors of development and what main figures were instrumental to the changing approach to computer technology during the later part of the decade.


computerisation; privacy; data act; interpretative flexibility; stabilisation

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