CIO Straight Talk - Issue 6 - 30

In 1944, Richard Feynman, then a junior staff member
at Los Alamos, organized a contest between human
computers and the Los Alamos IBM facility, with both
performing a calculation for the plutonium bomb.
For two days, the human computers kept up with the
machines. "But on the third day," recalled an observer,
"the punched-card machine operation began to move
decisively ahead, as the people performing the hand
computing could not sustain their initial fast pace,
while the machines did not tire and continued at their
steady pace."
With the advent of the digital computer, female
computers became "computer operators" and
"programmers." Six women ran one of the first
general-purpose electronic computers, the ENIAC, at
the University of Pennsylvania in 1946. The operators
were joined by female mathematicians and engineers
who came from academia or the military or both.
The most famous of these new recruits to IT was
Grace Hopper, who was professor of mathematics

at Vassar and enlisted during the war in the United
States Navy Reserve. She served on the Mark I
(another early electronic computer) programming
staff, wrote and co-wrote some of the early papers
on computers, and in 1949 joined Eckert-Mauchly
Computer Corporation, one of the first IT startups.
Hopper popularized the term "computer bug" after her
colleagues, the operators of the Mark II, traced the
cause of the computer's malfunction to a moth caught
in a relay and wrote in their logbook "First actual case
of bug being found." A widely quoted and celebrated
participant in the early days of the IT industry, Hopper
observed, "Programmers... arose very quickly, became
a profession very rapidly, and were all too soon infected
with a certain amount of resistance to change."
Hopper was a role model for many other women who
graduated from college with a degree in mathematics
or engineering and joined the rapidly expanding IT
sector. In the 1960s, women made up 30 percent to 50
percent of all programmers. "The Computer Girls," a

Percentage of Women Majors, by Field

Medical School

Law School

Physical Sciences

Computer Science

50%
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
1970

1980

1990

2000

Source: National Science Foundation, American Bar Association, American Association of Medical Colleges
Credit: Quoc trung Bui/NPR

CIO Straight Talk | 30

2010



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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