A Short History of Women in Technology
One of the many public debates in Australia at the moment is on the question of women in the computing industry. For many people, the computer industry and computers in general are seen to be a domain where big boys play with toys. Of course, in a society and economy based on the division of labor this may very well be true, but that is another article. The heads of all the large companies are men: Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to name but two. However, the same must be said of almost all companies and institutions in modern society. The computer industry does not exist in a vacuum; as much as anything else in our world, it is a plaything of larger forces.
What of the role of women in computing? From the earliest days of computing to the writing of the Standard Template Library, women have played an active and leading role in computer science. The following examples should quickly prove this statement to be true.
We can start with a question: who was the U.S. Army's programming language named after? Ada Lovelace, daughter of the English poet Lord Byron. (Rather ungallantly, Byron left Ada and her mother, Anne Isabella Milburke, when Ada was one year of age, to seek glory in Greece, where he succumbed to a fever instead of leading a stirring charge—history can be quite unforgiving.) A brilliant mathematician, she worked on the analytic engine with Charles Babbage, devising a method of programming based on the cards used on a Jaquard loom—a type of input some of us older people can remember from standardized testing in our school days, or from the Simpsons cartoon, where Apu wrote a tic-tac-toe game in his university days (before becoming the fifth Beatle).
With their combined algebraic skills, the pair set off to the racetrack to apply logic to horse racing in an attempt to win enough money to build their machine. This effort resulted in Lady Lovelace having to pawn her jewelry to keep out of debt—a lesson learned, I am sure. Financial problems aside, the machine, which was never built in their lifetime, was completed not that many years ago and did work, just as Ada said it would in her paper “Observations on Mr. Babbage's Analytical Engine”. Before the project collapsed in a fury of bad debt, Lady Lovelace wrote a working program to calculate Bernoulli numbers.
In this early moment of computing, a woman was actively involved. Indeed, if it is true that women have the keener language skills of the two sexes, it would follow that they would be more than able to contribute to computer science.
Skipping a few decades, we come to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the American entry into World War Two. The epic navy battles of the Pacific Theater of Operations showed the need to find a way to quickly calculate the flight of a shell fired from the great eight-inch guns of the USN. The math was simple enough (maybe not for me, but for others), but in the stress of battle, errors were not uncommon. A calculator was devised to make the work simpler and easier. In the pressure of war, expediency won out over ingrained sexist ideas, and many women were recruited for the projects, which in a few years led to the birth of the electronic computer.
One of the most significant of these young women was Grace Murray Hopper. A slight woman, who taught at Vassar before the war and was obsessed with nanoseconds, she talked the USN into allowing her to volunteer even though the Navy preferred to have its scientific researchers as civilians. In the Bureau of Ordnance Computation, she worked on the early computers—vast machines weighing many tons and needing crews of programmers to work them. Tasks were performed by plugging wires into the back of the machine. Many of the wire-plugging programmers were women.
Grace Hopper, later promoted to Rear Admiral, is credited with many innovations in her field. Among the most important was her first use of the word bug. A moth once flew into the machine, and was “battered to death” by a relay. Grace, upon extracting the poor dead insect, taped it into one of her notebooks and wrote, “The first actual case of a bug being found.” A new phrase for the source of a hair-tearing error was coined. On a more serious note, her laziness (one of the virtues of a programmer) led her to develop the first compiler for the UNIVAC in the mid-fifties. Until then, all coding had been done in machine code, a time-consuming and often frustrating activity. The ability to write English words to get the job done was a great advance in computer science, although it met with strong resistance from engineers at the time. Grace Hopper learned to loathe the phrase “but this is how we have always done it.”
The invention of the compiler led directly to her work on the development of the FORTRAN and COBOL programming languages, which she helped write and later refined and standardized as a member of the Standards Committee. COBOL, notwithstanding the success of C, is still the most common language in use today; more lines of code are produced in COBOL than in any other language. It is a fitting testimony to her achievement. The invention of the compiler is one of those things that is easy to take for granted, but for ease of use and the ability to port code, it is a very powerful tool.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
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- Stunnel Security for Oracle
- The Firebird Project's Firebird Relational Database
- Murat Yener and Onur Dundar's Expert Android Studio (Wrox)
- SUSE LLC's SUSE Manager
- Managing Linux Using Puppet
- My +1 Sword of Productivity
- Non-Linux FOSS: Caffeine!
- Doing for User Space What We Did for Kernel Space
- Google's SwiftShader Released
- SuperTuxKart 0.9.2 Released
With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide