Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 29th Mar 2012 20:32 UTC
General Development A beautiful story about Gwen Barzay, a black woman who broke both racial and gender barriers to become an early computer programmer. "Today she is retired, and like most retirees, she asks her son to help her with computers. She likes her Mac and runs a small business buying and selling books on line. What does she have to say about the difficulties she faced breaking into a male-dominated industry? 'I had it easy. The computer didn't care that I was a woman or that I was black. Most women had it much harder.'" The computer didn't care. Beautifully put.
Thread beginning with comment 512392
To view parent comment, click here.
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
RE[2]: Gender Barrier?
by WereCatf on Thu 29th Mar 2012 23:40 UTC in reply to "RE: Gender Barrier?"
WereCatf
Member since:
2006-02-15

Sure, with the first generation systems (1940-1950) the operators tended to be women. They were not programmers though (as loosely that the word can be applied to Colossus, I guess). There's a big difference.


It was all for practical reasons, though: women generally have smaller, more slender hands than men, and thus it was much easier and safer to let them handle changing the vacuum tubes. Also women even in general tend to be more slender, so you could fit more women in a room than you could fit men.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[3]: Gender Barrier?
by transputer_guy on Fri 30th Mar 2012 00:20 in reply to "RE[2]: Gender Barrier?"
transputer_guy Member since:
2005-07-08

I think it had far more to do with WWII, both the UK and US hired literally zillions of women who weren't allowed to fight into the secret world of the intelligence gathering and processing.

That's where the early computing devices were, so after the war, there was a ready pool of women that had worked on these data entry thingies that men hadn't seen yet.

Some of those were working as operators on code cracking machines, and other on what ever else the WAF could do where men weren't available.

I suspect Grace Hopper got her start there too.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE[4]: Gender Barrier?
by WereCatf on Fri 30th Mar 2012 00:43 in reply to "RE[3]: Gender Barrier?"
WereCatf Member since:
2006-02-15

I think it had far more to do with WWII, both the UK and US hired literally zillions of women who weren't allowed to fight into the secret world of the intelligence gathering and processing.


That, too, but I did read an interview about someone who worked on ENIAC and was a big shot there, and he said that literally one of the biggest reasons for hiring women was indeed their smaller hands.

I'd provide a link, but heck, I can't even remember if I read it online or in a magazine.

Reply Parent Score: 2