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Friday, November 7, 2014

Forgotten Female Programmers Remembered Again

The iconic computer programmer is a male. It is easy to believe, because the common computer programmer is, in fact, a male. Even though it seems like this has been true forever, the original tech creators were female.

Consider all female programmers today. There are incredibly few, and Google's staff and workers are only 17% female, the rest being male. When asked, students had no idea who the pioneering programmers were. Some of them actually guessed them being female, like Chung Dao Fan. "It's a woman, probably," she says. "I think it's more of a mechanical computer, really." She's thinking of the little-known Ada Lovelace, possibly known as Countess of Lovelace in 1815.

Walter Isaacson, the author of "Steve Jobs", starts his book "The Innovators" and includes her story. Ada Lovelace's mother made her study mathematics instead of poetry. Later, Ada worked with Charles Babbage to share ideas for a machine that solves mathematical equations. Babbage asked Ada to keep a journal, in which was written her hopes for the machine: to go beyond calculations. Even though Babbage's machine was never built, Ada's journals inspired later creations.

Even though she was incredibly popular, and should be remembered, nearly no one knows about the wonderful woman that Lovelace is. These people who don't know Babbage or Lovelace include those in the modern computer tech, and the ones who actually created the first electronic computers.

Jean Jenning Bartik was part of the job working on that computer. She knew that men didn't even really want to work on it, and mostly women ended up doing it. Men were interested in doing the machinery and such, but did not compare to women's knowledge for methematics. Even though females majoring in math was incredibly common, most computers were created by men because they seemed like better candidates than mathematicians.

When reading this post on your computer, searching YouTube for cat videos, or solving an equation on your computer, remember Ms. Ada Lovelace, or Countess of Lovaelace, as your wonderful muse.

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