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Václav Havel´s Computer

November 20, 2012


On Monday, the Václav Havel Library (VHL) received a gift from the company IBM: a computer that Václav Havel used at the end of the 1980s. When Mr. Havel became president, IBM furnished him with a new computer and put the old one in storage; thanks to the care of Jan Dohnal, a former director of IBM Czech Republic, the computer has been preserved to this day. The IBM XT 5160 personal computer from 1982, which today is a collector’s item from the historical point of view, has become part of the collection of the Documentation Centre of the VHL and will be used for exhibition purposes.

The director of the VHL, Marta Smolíková, took possession of the computer from Vladek Šlezingr, the general director of IBM Czech Republic. During the ceremonial presentation, which took place at the Galerie Montmartre in Prague’s Old Town, the story of the computer was reconstructed, while Václav Havel’s relationship to computers – known to be markedly ambivalent – was also discussed.

The programme included reminiscences on how the computer was conveyed to Václav Havel at his Hrádeček country house at the end of the 1980s, which did not pass off without harassment from the secret police; the painter David Němec and Václav Havel’s sister-in-law, Dagmar, described the situation. Vladimír Hanzel, who was at one time Václav Havel’s secretary and trained him in how to use the computer, spoke about the late president’s work with it. The programme was accompanied by examples of Václav Havel’s instructions on the subject of the computer to his assistants, read by Jáchym Topol.

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