How the Emerging Tech World Turned Patents into Weapons

From our phones to our laptops to our cars, software is an integral but largely invisible part of our daily lives. How did these intangible things called computer programs become not just ubiquitous, but big moneymakers for their creators? In this episode, Gerardo Con Diaz takes us back in time to when programs were not so intangible, and explains the different strategies that computer firms pursued to turn programs into profitable inventions.

Patents turned out to be central to this story, and companies waged legal and economic battles to decide what intellectual property protections software should have. From the days of rejiggering cables and circuitry to the more abstract era of linguistic programming, Con Diaz explains how a history of software patenting helps us better understand the tech marketplace of today.

Related collections:

Richard Thomas deLamarter collection of IBM antitrust suit records
Computer & Communications Industry Association IBM antitrust trial records
IBM computer photographs


Banner image: MCI Communications Corporation, Hagley Digital Archive

Gerardo Con Diaz is Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the University of California, Davis. Find them on Twitter @UCDavisSTS.