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Retro television: The WDR Computer Club – ahead of its time

If you believe Wolfgang Rudolph, one of the two presenters of the show, the computer club arose out of a misunderstanding. It was the time when the television program wasn’t running around the clock. Wolfgang Back, presenter and WDR employee, wanted to use sound modulation to transmit computer programs to the living room at home using the test image that was broadcast during the rest of the time – modem noise instead of beeps. But those responsible at the station did not understand the request and instead approved a television broadcast: the “Know How Computer Club”, later renamed “WDR Computer Club.”

In the beginning there was actually a club that you could become a member of, complete with club cards and newsletters. In several interviews before his death in 2019, Back reported with a wink how IT managers proudly pulled out their membership card at Cebit and presented them to him, in recognition of the pioneering work that the TV show had done for them personally. Back was forced to crush the club after a while – for legal reasons: its commercial character did not fit the mission of a public broadcaster. That was the beginning of a loyal community at a time when social media was not yet an option.

Back and Rudolph as well as the editor Ulrich Rohde had already worked together. First in the TV magazine eff-eff (Freizeit & Fitness), in which Back and Rohde participated, later in the program “Know How”, in which the “Computer Club” appeared for the first time in the form of a column. The rubric was not continued, but as described at the beginning, it became an independent program, initially with special permits before the official start of broadcasting on WDR television.

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