Digital StateThe Story of Minnesota's Computing Industry

Digital StateThe Story of Minnesota's Computing Industry

Thomas J. Misa

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780816683314

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press


Digital State tells the long overdue history of Minnesota’s world famous computer industry. The book profiles each of the most notable Minnesota companies, beginning with the founding of the Engineering Research Associates (in St. Paul) in 1946. Univac was a local successor to ERA, while Control Data was a spinoff that became a billion dollar a year concern by the 1960s. Honeywell was the state’s largest private sector employer, and IBM Rochester was a prominent outpost of that global company. The book is based on archival records of ERA, Control Data, and Univac and draws extensively on 60-plus oral histories collected at the Charles Babbage Institute as well as interviews done by the author. The book’s two final chapters consider how Minnesota embraced the coming of the “information economy” with assessments of its changing workforce and activities of prominent institutions (such as the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, the University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium). A unique firm-level dataset of nearly 250 Minnesota computer companies (1980-2011) anatomizes significant connections between the computing industry and today’s medical device industry. The “industrial district” concept used in the book meaningfully ties together the company case studies as well as has direct implications for the state’s economic development strategy. There is no other book that tells the history (1940s–today) of Minnesota’s computer industry and high tech economy.