Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Charles McGovern

Committee Member

Elizabeth Losh

Committee Member

Arthur Knight

Committee Member

Michael Newmann


This dissertation analyzes the personal computer's (PC) domestication during the 1970s and 1980s in the U. S. I argue that in adopting the PC Americans debated and asserted ideas of technology, race, family, and gender. Revising previous explanations that situated the home computer as the natural development of mainframe machines, This dissertation argues that the device emerged from American amateur electronics culture. Furthermore, the new discourses of the personal computer centered the home as its material center that inflected and challenged the PC's other environments, such as schools, public entertainment venues, and civil institutions. While journalistic accounts of personal computing have relied on technical details and hagiography, I uncover the computer's impact on the family circle through analysis of films, newspaper articles, marketing materials, and hobbyist literature. This dissertation reads "against the grain" to recover the voices of makers and users outside the dominant culture and to understand how the home computers' emergence contributed to their marginalization. in doing so, it portrays the computer less as a force for social liberation and more as a reactionary and conservative force used to curtail and reverse 1960s civil and political flux. in short, it finds discourses around personal computers contested and fostered 1.) assertions of its technology as particularly suited for a patriarchal heteronormative family; 2.) parental worries about creativity and education that perpetuated racial inequalities in schools and 3.) threats to masculinity in public entertainment venues, such as the arcade.



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