Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s students across the United States repeatedly seized and in some cases destroyed university computer centers. Supporters and detractors alike have tended to frame these incidents narrowly, in terms of a generalized war against technology. This essay offers a more expansive account, demonstrating that this brief yet intense rash of computer center sabotage was more complex and, frankly, more interesting than a bad case of technophobia. While it was clearly directed against computers, sabotage often had less to do with computerization itself than with imperialism and racial injustice. Saboteurs targeted computational collaborations with the Department of Defense, and they held computers hostage in exchange for increased support for Black students. This does not mean that computers themselves were irrelevant to computer center sabotage. Rather, it pushes us to rethink how computers and other technical devices become political objects.

You do not currently have access to this content.