Skip to main content

Digital Federalism

The early history of SWITCH and CSCS Manno (1985-1995)

This exploratory study investigates the early history and co-evolution of the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) in Manno, Ticino, and of the Swiss network for higher education and research (SWITCH) from 1985 to 1995. Results show that the development of (super-)computing and communication is closely connected to changes in academia and public administration by the end of the 20th century.

Currently the research teams are preparing a special issue on “Digital Federalism” for the Journal of Swiss History (SZG; Editors Paolo Bory, Politecnico di Milano, and Daniela Zetti). It aims to explore the history of concepts, practices and projects coming from scientific research and public administration that transformed and shaped computer-based communication. Furthermore, Daniela Zetti is preparing her second book “Taking networks into account”, investigating the early history of networks for higher research and education. Ely Lüthi (USI Lugano) works on a PhD-study discussing the history of CSCS. Team ETH developed digtal tools to manage and investigate the corpus of historical sources.

The study was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation's (SNF) Digital Lives initiative (fall 2018 – spring 2020). It represented a research collaboration between the IMeG Institute of Media and Journalism at USI Università della Svizzera italiana and the Chair for the History of Technology at ETH Zurich. Project partners: Swiss National Supercomputing Centre, Swiss Federal Archives, ETH Scientific IT Services.