A Short History of Women in Technology

If you think all computer professionals are men think again. Mr. Connelly tells us about some well-known women in computer annals.
Adele Goldstine

Another woman working during WWII was Adele Goldstine, who in 1946 revamped the ENIAC as a stored program computer, and is responsible for the quote “It was a son-of-a-bitch to program.” This development of the stored program allowed the computer to perform a new task without reconfiguring the entire system. She wrote the manual for the ENIAC as well.

Betty Holberton

At the same time, Betty Holberton was working on the UNIVAC and concerning herself with human engineering (i.e., user-friendliness). She developed a language called C-10, which allowed commands to be typed in rather than having to reset all the wires. Her system used mnemonic characters to input, for example, “a” for add and “b” for bring. In her work, she initiated the standard we still use today—the numeric pad next to the keyboard. In spite of all these efforts, she must be taken to task for her insistence that black was too intimidating a color for a computer, which resulted in the use of that horrible beige color for modern computers.


This is a discussion of only a few of the women involved in the development of the computer; however, many features we take for granted were developed by these women—the keyboard layout, the compiler, the stored program, the ugly colors and more.

Finally, two other women should be mentioned: first, the Editor of Linux Journal, Marjorie Richardson (I've never been one to miss a chance to court favor), and the author of Essential System Administration, Æleen Frisch. This text may have been of the most use to me in my vain attempts to conquer Linux.

More information about women in computer science can readily be found on the Internet at The Ada Project web site, built by Yale University, http://www.cs.yale.edu/HTML/YALE/CS/HyPlans/tap/tap.html.

Thomas Connelly lives in Sydney, Australia, with his partner Lyssa Wallace and his daughter Sofia, where he does market research (boring) to relieve the tedium fights with his Slackware Linux. He hopefully learns new tricks almost daily. He can be reached via e-mail at piglet@intercoast.com.au.