Saturday, September 13, 2014

Let's Hear It For The Ladies...!

Women have been first in many things in our history, though many of their accomplishments are just now coming into focus. We've had a few on here before, but this one was news to me!

The First Computer Programmers Were Women

By Kristin Lovett on Friday, September 12, 2014
In today’s universities, computer science course work is statistically dominated by men. However, the study of computing and automated arithmetic has not always been so male-dominated. In fact, the person regarded as the “world’s first programmer” was Ada Lovelace  the daughter of writer Lord Byron. Her contributions included designing an algorithm for execution on a theoretical adding machine.

The idea of a mechanical device to compute arithmetic faster than the human brain’s capability was once a dream. Nowadays, it’s a forgotten feature of a device we all carry in our pockets. However, it is an unfortunately buried fact that many of the pioneers in automated computing were women. Another entry in the long list of things women accomplished but lack recognition for due to historical (and indeed modern-day) sexism.

In the early days, most of what we would now call “computer science” was all theoretical. With electricity still in its early days of adoption, the capacity for mechanical devices to perform computations wasn’t quite there. Few would have imagined that machines would soon have the capability to perform computations independently, rather than aiding a human like an abacus would.

One of the earliest ideas for a computing device was Charles Babbage’s adding machine. Mainly a conceptual device, it fell to Ada Lovelace, daughter of the great writer Lord Byron, to present a potential algorithm to run on this adding machine in a lecture. She was chosen for her mathematical ability, making her an early pioneer of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Her work with Babbage also grants her the honor of being considered the first programmer. The modern programming language ADA is named after her, though her recognition seems to be minimal, considering her place as the first computer programmer.

Later, in World War II, when computing became more and more important in regard to code-breaking and code-making, groups of brilliant women skilled in mathematics were used to calculate various tasks, which could be written into algorithms and eventually programmed into early, vacuum-tube computers. However, history scorned many of these women due to an unfortunate tradition of sexism and discrimination. They were not even invited to a celebratory dinner following their work.

Even the more modern concept of wireless data transmission is a creation in part by a forgotten woman, Hedy Lamarr, who patented the concept of wireless signal cryptography, meaning that signals intercepted by malicious individuals could not be deciphered, making transmissions between distant individuals much safer and more secure. These advances are considered to be the backbone of modern telecommunications, but little credit or recognition was given to these ladies in their lifetimes.

Women in STEM fields are certainly present, though far too often their work seems to be buried or the credit stolen. Currently, the wage gap between men and women in STEM fields is quite large, and women are less likely to be hired for a position in the first place. We can only hope that this is something that will soon change.

Seems like we tend to forget that women made a lot of very useful discoveries for us in the past, and continue to do so even today! Let's give a big round of applause to the women of the world!

Coffee inside this morning. Raining some outside, ya know?


Sixbears said...

Now think of all those cultures that don't let their women do anything at all. They've lost half their brain power.

Chickenmom said...

Thanks for that story. I had read something about Hedy Lamarr a while back, but not about how other women helped. I'll bring an almond coffee ring for all to enjoy.

JO said...

I worked with some extremely high tech women over the years and they made the same money as the men. Some companies get it while others still don't.

We had quite a quite a storm here last night. Really wet out this morning, kitchen it is.

HermitJim said...

Hey Sixbears...
It's a shame that women are still treated as slaves or less in some countries, but that's the way in too many countries.

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Phyllis...
Many famous folks hold many surprises in their bios if we took the time to look.

Coffee ring sure sounds good to me!

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Jo...
Unfortunately some companies just never will, I'm afraid!

Thanks, sweetie, for coming by this morning!

Dizzy-Dick said...

Women should make good programmers. Don't they program their husbands??