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In the 1980s, each country had a particular brand of computer that was most commonly used in schools; often, there was pressure to go with a local manufacturer. In the US, the Apple II. In Britain, the BBC Micro. In France, presumably because of the aforementioned pressure, a local company licensed a TRS-80 design and manufactured it in a bright red case under the brand name Alice, until 1985 when the government declared Thomson the official supplier of computers to French schools.

Which brand was most commonly used in West German schools? I know Commodore was big in Germany, which would make it a likely candidate, unless nationalistic pressure acted again?

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    Side note: There was actually a German version of the BBC Micro available "back then" ( and a U.S one too ) although how many they sold or otherwise I do not have any information on but it is quite obvious that Acorn did not capture the educational 'market' in (what was back then, pre 1991) West Germany. It may of been a case of the machines were meant for home use, both of these variants do occasionally appear over here in the UK. Main differences are the additional RF shielding inside. More detail available if warranted but it seems to be drifting off your question, sorry. – AndyF Jan 23 at 13:44
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    A few early Acornsoft titles are available in a German-language version, but that doesn't last for very long, so it's probably safe to assume the BBC didn't do much in the consumer space in Germany either? – Tommy Jan 23 at 15:06
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    The BBC had a decent fellowship in Germany as well, but clearly outrun by other major brands. And yes, some schools did use it as well. – Raffzahn Jan 23 at 15:12
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    "often, there was pressure to go with a local manufacturer. In the US, the Apple II." I was under the impression Apple donated those computers to schools. hackeducation.com/2015/02/25/kids-cant-wait-apple "So in turn, under its Kids Can’t Wait program, Apple donated a computer to each of the roughly 9000 eligible elementary and secondary schools in California. " Other manufacturers such as IBM could have easily done the donating. – CrossRoads Jan 23 at 19:06
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    robotrontechnik.de East Germany had its own stuff. – Prof. Falken contract breached Jan 24 at 10:56
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Which brand was most commonly used in West German schools? I know Commodore was big in Germany, which would make it a likely candidate, unless nationalistic pressure acted again?

There is no simple answer. Not so much due to any 'nationalistic pressure' (*1) but the fact that German schools are not run according to federal guidelines, but are managed on state level and in some cases on city level - plus some recognized independent bodies. All of them had different preferences, not to mention that early on not even the governing bodies gave out guidelines, so schools acquired a quite broad variety of machines.

During the 1960s and 70s a wide variety of Minis were bought by schools - in at least one case I know a /370ish mainframe and another Gymnasium owning a Zuse Z23. This includes many German machines like Walter, Dietz, TA, Kienzle or Nixdorf but as well DEC, IBM, Philips or other non-German machines. Usually the decisions were made at discretion of teachers and/or supportive parents. Of course, having a computer back then was only a thing in higher schools and only in more affluent areas.

When micros came along in the late 1970s, again schools often selected their own brand early on. These decisions were as well based on teacher/parent preferences, but as much influenced by local dealerships offering appealing deals. This was pretty much standard until state school governments did churn out guidelines and most importantly, bulk deals.

As one of the larger states, Bavaria is a great example. They did go for Commodore around 1980/81 making PET machines the default. But guidelines were open to support competition. The only other company besides Commodore having a larger share in Bavaria was Nuremberg based Triumph-Adler with their P series as well later on with PCs. Nonetheless, some state schools did continue to use other brands, or, like one Gymnasium in Munich, switched to Olivetti after the standard was set (*2). Or take Augsburg, were MAI machines were used.

During the mid 1980s, when the PC got established, a slow migration began - here IBM as well as SIEMENS and Olivetti managed to gather larger shares in Bavaria - beside, you guessed it, Commodore. Their PC 10/20 series were eventually the most used PC brand in Bavarian schools, despite SIEMENS PC being locally designed and manufactured in Augsburg. Still schools also vowed to use Atari ST as well. Heck, one trade school in Munich switched for C64 as late as 1984, at a time when PET or PC had been set for years.

The situation was like that all over Germany.

Bottom line: Next to any 1975-1985 home/personal computer could be found at German schools.

So yes, PET, Apple II, BBC Micro, Sharp, Triumph-Adler+, Olivetti, Philips, Atari or Amstrad were as well what German pupil saw first.


*1 - Commodore did argue toward officials that they were a German brand due to manufacturing in Germany, except IBM and Olivetti did the same :)

*2 - Which makes another nice case about the diverse structure of schools in Germany, as Munich is special in Bavaria by not being a state run school area, but city-run - and while state and city vowed for Commodore - and allocated funds - the school could still close their own deal.

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    Even with the qualifier: can you name a single 'school' in the 60s that had any type of computer? (Also: please try to quantify 'many' a bit better. My impression is that until mid–late 80s most schools were quite back-burning on that front? Like perhaps 0 or ~4–8 computers at a school with 400 pupils in rural areas ~89? (A guess, may be quite off, but I'd like some reliable numbers on that.)) – LаngLаngС Jan 23 at 19:51
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    @LаngLаngС I'm a bit confused, what qualifyer, also, didn't write 'many'. As said, it depends on state, school type, and school. So there have been quite differences. For example already around 1982 all Munich Gymnasium had (at least) one computer room with (by default )16 machines. By 1989 (which you mentioned) this was the case for every Bavarian school (past elementary). Of course instrumentation did not always result in usage. I'm not saying in any way your impression is wrong - it just depends extreme on what sample you look at. German school system is anything but unified. – Raffzahn Jan 23 at 20:35
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    @AndyF Schooling for Abitur (Gymnasium) required in all of Germany and since the late 1800s 13 years thus leave age was always more like 19-20. Leaving at 15 means taking only 9 years, which is the minimum years by law. Ofc, pupils leaving at 15 are not attending Gymnasium thus most definitely not a school that had already a computer in the 1960s. – Raffzahn Jan 23 at 20:42
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    The "wide variety bought by schools" seems to imply 'more' than "they bought 5 altogether, all different ones". The federalised, subsidiary nature is one thing (that might also be spelled out in more detail, W-Germany is bigger than Bavaria ;) Perhaps the state-specific 1 computer for x number of pupils (over the years and per state) might describe this better? Impression is coloured by computers/80s/German schools being a quite 'exotic' experience, combined. No regular classes using them (a few math/physics stints excluded)? But this is no criticism, I just do not really know the numbers. – LаngLаngС Jan 23 at 20:44
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    @LаngLаngС Broad variety here means that there was no real standard covering schools in a state. In the early years decisions were quite local. So it one school could buy TA P2, while another down the street did choose Philips or Commodore. Ofc, always the same type, I know of no school mixing their selection. And no, Bavaria is Germany. What symbolizes Germany all over the world? Lederhosen, Bier and BMW! :)) So in reality Germany consists of Bavaria and its 15 suburbs. – Raffzahn Jan 23 at 20:58
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I can only speak for my own school, a Roman Catholic Gymnasium (i.e. highest-of-three-tiers secondary school, the word does not mean "gym" in German) in a small town near the former West German capital Bonn. But as far as I heard from others, this was sort of typical.

We had one Commodore PET-2001 which the school got soon after it was available in the late 1970s. The rest were about ten Apple II Europlus machines, in general use from about 1981 or so until about 1990, used for BASIC, Apple Pascal, and Logo; we had generic PC clones after that time for use with GW-Basic and Turbo Pascal, at least until I left the school in 1993.

Since West Germany manufactured no home computers or PCs that were really of German Origin (the Schneider computers were licensed versions of UK manufacturer Amstrad), and also since all things related to schools were subject to State Law rather than Federal Law, I don't think there was so much pressure to chose one specific brand.

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    Commodore developed PCs in Germany and there was the Siemens PC-D series (which a fried of mine had). I don't know of 8-bit systems developed and manufactured in Germany, though. – DarkDust Jan 23 at 10:26
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    Saying 'Germany manufactured no *** computers that were really of German Origin' did you mean only West Germany (BRD)? East Germany (DDR) at those times manufactured quite a lot of computers, for example Robotrons: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – lvd Jan 23 at 14:41
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    @lvd good point, but OP explicitly says West Germany – Wilson Jan 24 at 7:24
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    There were some German brands, Kontron, Basis, TA, Siemens etc. – Patrick Schlüter Jan 24 at 13:28
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There wasn't any master plan. Each school did its own thing, depending on the commitment of their teachers (or the lack thereof).

Our school in Rendsburg/S-H got a few (5?) Sharp MZ-80K in 1981?, one MZ-80A a bit later (which featured an actually usable keyboard!) for programming in BASIC and Pascal.

The MZs were followed by two Commodore PC-10 around 1985 that were mainly used in the science departments.

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Two data points from North Rhine-Westphalia: About 1980 our small Gymnasium had a demo setup of original IBM PCs (with CGA/EGA graphics?) for some weeks, but then settled for a bunch of Apple II clones, maybe 16 devices.

A neighboring Gymnasium had a Dietz minicomputer with four user terminals (plus one management terminal) at the same time, for several years.¹


¹ I took a computer course using that mini, and I fondly remember programming a fake user prompt that would run on another terminal and answer all input with strange error messages, driving the poor soul in front of it crazy. Those were good times.

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    :) Great story. Do you have, by chance, any surviving documentations/scripts/etc from that course? – Raffzahn Jan 24 at 10:56
  • @Raffzahn I'm really not sure. I will have a look at my old stuff when I am at my parents' house the next time. What do you suggest if I find something of interest? – Dubu Jan 24 at 21:33
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    Computeum got two Dietz, at least one operational. They plan to use it with schools again. – Raffzahn Jan 24 at 21:52
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In 1983 my school in Hamburg purchased one expensive Commodore PET programmable in BASIC and i never saw any use in that.

In 1985 my school in Bargteheide filled an entire classroom with Commodore C128s programmable in COMAL and let us students code on them and let us students teach a course to other students.

Me and my hacker friends however preferred the Sharp MZ computers delivered with wiring and Zilog Z80 opcode diagrams and the entire EPROM .asm software source code in its manual, and the Clean64KComputer BASIC interpreter and CP/M BIOS+BDOS software source codes available for purchase, where CP/M was most easily programmed in Turbo Pascal predating Turbo Modula-2. Cyberpunk Axel from Duvenstedt even bootstrapped his tiny own C compiler and 16bit Unix base, if i remember correctly! The Z80 was also popular in East Germany's Robotron ESER PC 1715.

While the university in Kiel used VAXen in 1988, my university in Berlin ran SPARCstations in 1989 already.

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In the late 80's we had Apple IIs for 6502 assembler and those slightly incompatible Wang DOS machines with amber monitors for Turbo Pascal and SPS programming. That was at some sort of high school with engineering focus in northern West Germany.

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In the late seventies / early eighties my school in Bochum (North Rhine-Westphalia) first had a Wang 2200 BASIC computer that was both used for local basic programming and as a terminal to the communal data center (I didn't get to use that, though.) Later they installed two Apple II machines with UCSD Pascal.

The school was part of a school trial project to integrate computer science into the curriculum, see https://www.computerwoche.de/a/informatik-als-unterrichtsfach,1201674 (german.)

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