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Women in Technology

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History of a Few Good Women in Technology From 1815 - Present


Georgia Perimeter College

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Women have played a major role in computing for centuries as well as men. The purpose of this paper is to gain knowledge on women involved in technology who for some reason do not gain as much recognition as do men. There are numerous women within this field worth talking about, but the ones chosen were Ada Byron, Grace Hopper, Evelyn Granville, and Krisztina Holly. The history of each individual will be discussed as well as what form of influence they had in computers.

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History of a Few Good Women in Technology From 1815 - Present


The revolution of computers had begun centuries ago. It has been the work of many over the course of years to bring computers where they are today. For quite some time it entailed people with bright imaginations to come up with technological inventions. These inventions were then taken and built upon to improve its functionality. Finally, computers were no longer a revolution but an evolution since the 1950's. During the course of this time many men as well as women had influenced technology. Unfortunately, women have not received the same form of recognition as the men have in this field of study. After carefully researching women in technology, it was observed on how true this was. It was difficult to find the names of women who were influential in computing let alone their biographies. On the other hand, finding men who were involved in this field were numerous. After spending time finding a list of women who were instrumental in computing, it was then narrowed down to four women of interest. The first woman to be discussed is Ada Byron. Following her will be Grace Hopper, Evelyn Granville, and Krisztina Holly.

Ada Byron, Lady Love Lace

Ada Byron, also known as Lady Lovelace, was born on December 10, 1815. She was the daughter of the famous poet, Lord Byron. Shortly after Ada was born, her mother asked for a separation from Lord Byron out of fear her daughter would become a poet like her father. Because of this, she was taught to be a mathematician and scientist.

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Ada at the age of 19 was having dinner at her friends' house when she first heard of Babbage's idea to invent a new calculating engine. According to Toole, "Babbage wanted a calculating engine that could not only foresee but could act on that foresight" (2000). Ada was very intrigued by his ideas and began a friendship with Babbage shortly after. "Ada predicted that a machine like this might be used to compose complex music, produce graphics, and for practical and scientific use (Toole, 2004). Lady Lovelace had then suggested to Babbage to write a formal plan on how an engine could calculate Bernoulli numbers. It was this plan that the two of them worked on that is now considered the first computer program. Because of her foresight, the Unites States Department of Defense developed a software program and named it Ada in honor of her in 1979.

Unfortunately, her life was short lived and died at the age of 36. She is formally known as "The Enchantress of Numbers" and her precognition of computers by more than a century is what many of us believe is new computing. Her passion for Babbage's ideas were intense and had people during that era lived longer, there is no telling what she and Babbage may have invented.

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

Grace Hopper was born on December 9, 1906 in New York City. She lived a normal upbringing and loved to do conventional childhood things with the exception of her fondness for devices. She truly enjoyed taking things apart to see how they worked and put them back together again. According to Danis, "When grace was seven, she had taken apart seven alarm clocks in her house" (1997). Grace's parents taught her and her

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siblings to be unique and not do what is customary of women. Grace went on to Graduate with her BA in Mathematics and Physics and completed her MA and Ph.D. by the age of 28. Hopper married in 1930, separated in 1940, and divorced in 1945. Hopper decided to join the service and became a member in 1943.

It is here where Hopper would influence the world of technology. Hopper was allocated to the Bureau of Ordinance Computation Project at Harvard University. Grace worked at Harvard's Cruft Laboratories where she observed for the first time the Mark I computer. Her initial instinct was to be able to take it apart and see exactly how it worked. Hopper received an award for introducing application programming for the Mark I, Mark II, and Mark III computers. After realizing the importance of these computers, Hopper came up with the notion that a broader range of people could utilize them if there were tools to help make them user friendly. Hopper strongly believed her concept was very powerful and ended up taking a job with Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation in 1949. Hopper had the opportunity to work with the UNIVAC I, which was the first electronic digital computer. "At this point in time, programs contained mnemonics that were transferred into binary code instructions executable by the computer" (Danis, 1997). Grace Hopper and her team came out with the A-O compiler, which interpreted symbolic mathematical code into machine code. This permitted for call numbers to be designated to programming procedures.

Still these computers were not user-friendly and Hopper knew programming languages needed to be developed so people without mathematician degrees could utilize such extraordinary equipment. This led to the development of the B-O compiler



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