Jaroslav Švelch – Gaming the Iron Curtain: How Teenagers and Amateurs in Communist Czechoslovakia Claimed the Medium of Computer Games


MIT Press, SBN-13: 978-0262038843, English, 208 pages, 2018, USA

Many aspects of the 1980s are pivotal to an understanding of our technological present. The first digital presence in private spaces took place at this time, and this can be easily correlated with a radical change in perception and behaviour. Indeed, there’s a whole history emerging from the personal accounts of this bygone period, one that is even more engaging beyond the so-called Iron Curtain. In this book Jaroslav Švelch develops his initial research into a mission: to document the Czech early video game scene and all its internal structures, relationships and enthusiasms. He does so with remarkable results, and offers some key insights into a historical period that is still quite obscure, despite the fact that it laid the ground for everything we experience today. We can read about amateur programmers and their first bric-a-brac approach to game design in a social ecosystem where the private use of computers was merely ‘tolerated’. Some new elements emerge, like the ZX-Spectrum Czech clones and their strategies to solve the compatibility of imported peripheral devices (cassette players, floppy drives, etc.). Joining the few precious books which are finally unveiling the history of information technology in the former Eastern Bloc, this is another important resource, extended with a website containing further material.