CIO Straight Talk - Issue 6 - 29

So sang a chorus of "computers" in the Observatory
Pinafore, a parody of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S
Pinafore, written in 1880 by a junior astronomer at
the Harvard Observatory. In the nineteenth century,
astronomy was the dominant field of scientific research
and the discipline that required the greatest amount
of calculation. Doing the calculations were human
"computers," all of them female.
By the early twentieth century, computing was
thought of as women's work and computers were
assumed to be female. The proliferation of massproduced adding and calculating machines brought the
female operators of these machines in large numbers
to military and business settings and to new research
fields such as economics and social statistics.

The work of female computers crested during
World War II and the early years of the Cold War. They
attempted to establish their work as an independent
discipline with its own professional literature, formal
training, and supportive institutions. But as an
occupation dominated by women, it gained
little respect.
At Los Alamos, the scientists' wives were recruited
in the early stages of the Manhattan Project to compute
long math problems. Mathematicians - mostly men -
would approximate the problem-solving horsepower of
computing machines in "girl-years" and describe a unit
of machine labor as equal to one "kilo-girl."
Then the computers were replaced, first by
mechanical calculators and later by digital computers.

CIO Straight Talk | 29



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CIO Straight Talk - Issue 6

Contents
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 6 - Cover1
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 6 - Contents
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 6 - 3
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CIO Straight Talk - Issue 6 - InsertA
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CIO Straight Talk - Issue 6 - InsertB
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CIO Straight Talk - Issue 6 - Cover3
CIO Straight Talk - Issue 6 - Cover4
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