Thus Spake Zuska

The Original “Computers”

Just yesterday I posted information about a new resource on recruiting women and girls into information technology. Ironically, the same day American Public Media ran this story about Jean Bartik, one of the original “computers”.

Yesterday in San Francisco, Apple released its new computer, the MacBook Air. The notebook has an eighty gigabyte hard drive, is a mere three quarters of an inch thick and weighs three pounds. Dick’s guest today can certainly put that achievement into perspective. Jean Bartik’s first job was as a “computer” – a human one. She went on to help program one of the world’s first computers .

Unsurprisingly, these women never got the attention or acclaim they deserved for their work. This story goes a little way towards making up for that.

Hat tip to Bora for letting me know about this.


  1. #1 BRC
    January 17, 2008

    Hi Zuska,

    You’d also love Jennifer Light’s “When Computers were Women.” Technology and Culture 40: 3 (1999), 455-483. It’s a fascinating article on the same theme, as the title would suggest. It’s also reprinted in Ruth Oldenziel and Nina Lerman’s excellent Gender and Technology: a Reader (JHU Press, 2003).


  2. #2 Alexis
    January 17, 2008

    Tsk, shame they didn’t mention the other 5. Or, you know, mention how fucking important ENIAC was. Jesus. Crap. It was ENIAC. Fucking ENIAC. Calling it “one of the world’s first computers” is like calling the space shuttle “the world’s biggest airplane.”

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