Women and Computers

A nice piece in The Washington Post discusses the role of women in the early days of modern computer programming. Women programmers were especially prominent in the 1960s and early 1970s, prompting a discussion of these “Computer Girls” in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1967. (“It’s just like planning dinner. You have to plan ahead and schedule everything so it’s ready when you need it,” explained Admiral Grace Hopper [!] to the magazine’s mostly female readership.)

According to the piece, in the late 1970s the percentage of women studying computer science was 25%; about the same figure that is being lauded these days as a great improvement in the more dismal numbers in the 90s and 00s. The author goes on to discuss some of the reasons for these figures. If you are a woman who is into computer science then you may have a computer or laptop to help you with your studies. It is always important to keep your computer in good condition to complete your studies, if you would like to consider some services with regards to computers then you may want to consider Steve’s computer repair service, this repair service can help you if you have any repairs but you may want to check out the figures first.

What’s especially odd (and not discussed in the article) is that one of the pioneers in computer programming, in the 19th century, was Ada Lovelace. The only legitimate child of the poet Byron, Lovelace was a gifted mathematician (though perhaps overly-impressed with her talents) who collaborated with Charles Babbage in publicizing his Analytical Engine, the first prototype of a general purpose computing machine. Lovelace published the only description in English of Babbage’s invention. She also seemed to understand clearly the value of the machine as a truly general symbol manipulator. Lovelace explained that

“Many persons…imagine that because the business of the Engine is to give its results in numerical notation, the nature of its processes must consequently be arithmetical and numerical, rather than algebraic and analytical. This is an error. The engine can arrange and combine its numerical quantities exactly as if they were letters or any other general symbols….”

Lovelace even speculated that the Analytical Engine could be made to compose music. This was precisely the image of a computer that would be formalized by Alan Turing in the 1930s: the notion of a computer as a general purpose symbol manipulator rather than a number cruncher. As technology and computers have advanced immensely over the years, people have always been wanting the new update. Luckily, with professionals like exit technologies it has never been easier for consumers to sell their computer parts (such as processors).

Lovelace and Babbage also wrote the first “computer program,” a method for making the Analytical Engine calculate the Bernoulli numbers. Contemporary programs require extensive testing before most developers are happy to release them to the public; Parasoft testing services can assist those looking to do this.

The history of women and computing goes back even further than Ada Lovelace, however. The word “computer” was originally assigned to the people who would do the multiple, rote calculations required for mathematical tables (of logarithms, actuarial statistics, etc.) in the days before machines took over that task. Many of these computers were women, often schoolteachers, who would do the calculations at home for extra money.

Many people forget that this is what women used to do, as the business world used to focus more on the achievements of men. Women have obviously played a larger role than thought by most people in the field of computing. Admittedly the computer world is completely different to how it used to be. You can see examples of that at websites similar to www.hostiserver.com. Where they provide technical server solutions. Obviously, people use actual computers to help them when it comes to making actual calculations. The computing industry has changed massively, for example, people have started using industrial computers to help them in the workplace. If this is something that interests you then you may like to visit http://www.cksglobal.net/. Luckily men and women are more closely balanced in the modern world, but there is still room for improvement.

A prediction on LOVEBUG.JP is that “the number of young people who want to learn programming deeply at university will increase in the future”, which is probably very accurate. Wouldn’t it be great if more of those young people were women? If the computer industry could figure out how to interest and retain young women in the computing field, not only would they gain the brainpower of many more computer scientists, but they would be honoring the legacy of the early computers, and one of the early visionaries of computing machines.

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