Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"When Computers Where Women"

That's the title of an article Jennifer S. Light published in Technology and Culture (40.3, 1999, 455-483). It's about ENIAC, an electronic computer built "to automate ballistics computations during World War II." The publicly available excerpt of Light's article (which is otherwise gated) says:
Nearly two hundred young women, both civilian and military, worked on the project as human "computers," performing ballistics computations during the war. Six of them were selected to program a machine that, ironically, would take their name and replace them, a machine whose technical expertise would become vastly more celebrated than their own. 
The omission of women from the history of computer science perpetuates misconceptions of women as uninterested or incapable in the field. This article retells the history of ENIAC's "invention" with special focus on the female technicians whom existing computer histories have rendered invisible. In particular, it examines how the job of programmer, perceived in recent years as masculine work, originated as feminized clerical labor.
The women (from the Wikipedia article on ENIAC): Kay McNulty, Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, Fran Bilas and Ruth Lichterman.

No comments:

Post a Comment