Unveiling Hidden Heroes: Women’s Role in Portugal’s Gaming Industry

In the vibrant landscape of the 1980s, computer games began their ascent to cultural prominence, captivating Portugal with their digital allure. This phenomenon owes much of its success to an unexpected player: TIMEX. While the influence of TIMEX in Portugal’s gaming history might not be widely known, it played a pivotal role in shaping the industry as we know it today.

TIMEX, renowned for its expertise in crafting wristwatches, extended its capabilities to computers. In a pioneering move, TIMEX not only manufactured wristwatches but also delved into assembling home computers, such as the Model ZX81. These ventures made significant contributions to the technological landscape of Portugal.

However, the most intriguing aspect of TIMEX’s journey lies in the narratives of the women who worked behind the scenes. These women formed an integral part of the assembly lines that produced these early computers, but their stories have remained concealed from the annals of history. Driven by the desire to shed light on these unsung heroines, the Interactive Technologies Institute embarked on a groundbreaking research project – GAGE, Game Art and Gender Equity.

Dr Mona Bozdog’s research, aptly titled “Generation ZX(X),” emerged as a pivotal step in unearthing these narratives. This initiative revolved around recovering women’s experiences working at the TIMEX factory in Dundee, Scotland. The insights revealed by this research emphasize that many of these women were unaware of the lasting impact they would have on Portugal’s digital gaming industry.

The historical context of TIMEX’s presence in Portugal is crucial to understanding this narrative. Before the 25th of April Revolution, the Portuguese government enticed multinational corporations to establish themselves through incentives like low wages and favourable labour conditions. TIMEX was among these corporations, which subsequently fueled the development of Portugal’s digital technology sector.

1983 marked the establishment of a prolific production line within TIMEX Portugal. It is said that up to 10,000 machines were produced daily, requiring the skill and precision of women workers. While positions considered “skilled” were predominantly held by male electronics technicians and engineers, women played an indispensable role in the assembly lines.

The project GAGE aims not only to recover the testimonies and memories of these women but also to honour their contributions. Just as engineers and technicians were instrumental in the mass adoption of this technology, these women played a significant role in shaping the direction of Portugal’s gaming industry. Their dedication and labour were the bedrock upon which the early computer gaming landscape was built.

GAGE seeks to bridge the gap between the women who formed the backbone of TIMEX’s operations and the broader gaming industry by spotlighting these hidden stories. The interplay between women’s labour on computer assembly lines and their role in shaping the gaming sector remains a largely unexplored field, one that offers new perspectives on the history of technology and gender roles.

TIMEX Portugal faced challenges in the late 1980s, leading to a massive layoff on the 27th of May, 1988. Despite the company’s decline, the legacy of the women who assembled the first home computers endures. As a collective, their contributions have remained obscured for far too long. Through the GAGE project, their stories will be preserved, celebrated, and acknowledged as crucial to Portugal’s digital gaming history.

The Interactive Technologies Institute invites you to join us on this journey of rediscovery. Let us honour the memory of these remarkable women who shaped Portugal’s technology and gaming landscape. Their legacy will not be forgotten, and their stories will inspire future generations. If you know women who worked at TIMEX in Portugal, contact us.