I started out making a talk about how programming got to be the way it was. Because of how interesting the stories are, this talk became the history of how women shaped programming.
No computing history would be complete without mentioning Ada Lovelace. Only child of the poet Lord Byron and his wife Anne Isabella Byron. All Byron's other children were born out of wedlock to other women. Byron separated from his wife a month after Ada was born and left England forever four months later. Ada's mother remained bitter towards Lord Byron and promoted Ada's interest in mathematics and logic in an effort to prevent her from developing what she saw as the insanity seen in her father. Ada was often ill as a child and developed her interest in math and science then. At one point she tried to elope with a tutor. She married Baron King, who became the Earl of Lovelace, and had three children with him.
She is known to have written the first computer program--an algorithm for Babbage's Analytical Machine to compute Bernoulli numbers. The Analytical Engine was a proposed mechanical general-purpose computer designed by English mathematician Charles Babbage. She never lived to see the machine work, but the programs ran flawlessly on an emulator a century later.
Ada translated notes from Italian military engineer Luigi Menabre, supplemented with notes of her own. Note G contains the Bernoulli proram. Ada described her approach as "poetical science" and herself as an "Analyst (& Metaphysician)". One of her projects was a “calculator of the nervous system.” She wanted to make a mathematical model of the brain.
TRANSITION: While Ada worked on machines that didn’t exist, here is a woman who did very influential work on the first machines that did exist.
This is the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC), or Mark 1, which Grace Hopper programmed. Used in the war effort in WWII.’ An electromechanical machine.
TRANSITION: Some people who ended up working closely with Grace Hopper are the programmers of the ENIAC, the first fully electronic machine.
American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. One of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer. Invented the first compiler for a computer programming language. A compiler is program that takes a program and turns it into another program. Eventually you get something that can run on the machine. She popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages: programs that are written in terms of something more abstract than the specific set of switches for a single machine. This led to the development of COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages. She is credited with popularizing the term "debugging" for fixing computer glitches (inspired by an actual moth removed from the computer. There are many things named after her, including a naval destroyer and a Cray supercomputer.
First electronic general purpose computer. It was a thousand times faster than electro-mechanical machines. It was made of vacuum tubes, diodes, relays, resistors, and capacitors. Pictured: Betty Jean Jennings and Fran Bilas. ENIAC was initially designed to calculate artillery firing tables. In the beginning, because the ENIAC was classified, the women were only allowed to work with blueprints and wiring diagrams in order to program it.
Around the same time, Jean Bartik and five other women were programming the ENIAC, one of the world’s fully electronic general-purpose computer. She went to a Teachers College and studied math. She started programming computers during the war. Men didn't think it was an important job—they were more interested in the hardware, the circuits. Many women studied math back then, though most of them went off to teach before WWII. When Bartik got the job to program the ENIAC, the job didn’t have prestige. Even though her team got the machine working the day before the first demo, they weren’t invited to the dinner after the announcement. Bartik says, “. People never recognized, they never acted as though we knew what we were doing. I mean, we were in a lot of pictures.” At the time, media outlets didn’t name the women in the pictures.
Betty Holberton was another programmer of the ENIAC. On her first day of classes at UPenn, her math professor asked her if she wouldn't be better off at home raising children. Instead, Holberton decided to study journalism, one of the few fields open to women as a career in the 1940s. Holberton helped develop the UNIVAC, putting the numeric keypad next to the computer. She also came up with the gray-beige tone that became the universal computer color. She wrote the Sort Merge generator, one of the first programs that generated other programs. She worked with Grace Hopper on COBOL and FORTRAN.
Programming chart for the ENIAC.
Wrote the first assembly language and the design of the assembler and autocode (ARC and APE(X)C). Part of her contribution was the ARC assembly language. She also built and maintained ARC components.
Joined the ten-person IBM team after graduating college. The starting salary was $5100, twice the salary of Bell Labs. She didn’t know what programming computers was when she accepted, but figured it was going to be interesting and challenging if they were going to pay her so much. She says, “They took anyone who seemed to have an aptitude for problem-solving skills-- bridge players, chess players, even women.” She worked on various parts of the Fortran compiler. Later, she worked on Petri nets and generating programs from them.
imperative programming language that is especially suited to numeric computation and scientific computing
Started working at IBM to pay off her teaching school loans. Continued working at IBM for the rest of her career. Became the first female IBM fellow. Won a Turing Award for her work on optimizing compilers.
Hamilton is credited for coining the term “software engineering”. She pioneered the concepts of asynchronous software, priority scheduling, end-to-end testing, and human-in-the-loop decision capability. She was the lead software engineer on the Apollo projects. She pioneered Apollo’s on-board guidance for navigating to and from the moon. Her work prevented an abort of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The software got overloaded with incoming data but the computer was able to keep running because the program was so robust.
Goldberg began working at PARC in 1973 as a laboratory and research assistant. She eventually became manager of the System Concepts Laboratory where she, Alan Kay, and others developed Smalltalk-80. Goldberg’s work on design templates led to design patterns for software. Many of the concepts she developed became the basis for graphical user interfaces. According to Goldberg, she refused to give Steve Jobs a demonstration of the Smalltalk System. She was forced to, and Apple eventually used many of these ideas in the implementation of the Macintosh desktop.
Barbara Liskov was one of the first American women to be awarded a PhD, in the computer science department at Stanford. She built the Venus operating system and the CLU programming language. She has done foundational work for types in object-oriented languages. She has also made significant contributions in distributed computing.
A Brief History of Programming
Girl Geek Dinner
December 16, 2014