The dream of an aluminium miracle

The 1960s and 70s saw the emergence of a modern consumer society along American lines in Austria. Berndorfers were hopeful that they too would now benefit – better late than never – from the country’s economic prosperity, envisaging a bright future built on “the most versatile material of the 20th century”: aluminium. The merger to create Vereinigte Metallwerken Ranshofen Berndorf (VMW) was an attempt to realise this ambition. But people’s expectations were unfortunately unrealistic. Many of the ideas for new products, such as an assault boat for Austrian customs officials operating on the Danube river, or a stage staircase for the Vienna Boys’ Choir, were so fanciful that they never made it past the costing stage.

Cutlery, the Berndorf brand’s traditional core product, survived this period of innovation and experimentation. In the early days of Austria’s Second Republic tableware became a status symbol – this was the first time since before the first war that large numbers of Austrians could afford luxury goods. Berndorf cutlery was an essential item on the wedding lists of young couples who dreamed of a better future.

The destiny of the Berndorf works, like that of many other nationalised companies, lay in the hands of the politicians. Struggles between party officials and the inaction induced by the Proporz system of allocating government posts stood in the way of implementing modern ideas. The oil crisis of 1973 dealt the company another severe blow. While many industrial locations had been employing foreign workers for some time, in Berndorf contracts and therefore jobs were being lost.
Eventually a break was made with “the material of the 20th century” in 1984: the Berndorf site was separated from VWM to form Berndorfer Metallwarengesellschaft m.b.H.

Science and technology in this time

1969: The Internet – Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), USA

1969: Microprocessor – Marcian Hoff, Intel, USA

1969: Moon landing – Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, Michael Collins, Apollo 11, USA

1972: Computed tomography – Godfrey Hounsfield, United Kingdom; Allan MacLeod Cormack, USA

1977: Personal computer (Apple’s Apple II model) – Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, USA

1979: Catalytic convertor – Ricardo Consulting Engineers, England

1981: Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS) – Microsoft, USA

Fenster, Türen und Portale aus Aluminium