Charting a course into the world of technology can be a daunting voyage for women. Today’s computer culture is still dominated by men, and many women have yet to navigate these largely uncharted waters. New technologies have become increasingly important and arguably necessary in some spheres of modern life. In light of this sea of change, it becomes imperative for women to heed the words of Admiral Hopper and set sail into new territory.
Yet, computer culture was not always a male domain. In fact, some of the first computer researchers, programmers, and experts were women. While completing graduate studies at Harvard University and MIT, I began to explore the world of gender, technology, and computer culture. To my surprise, I uncovered the stories of Ada Byron Lovelace, Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, and the ENIAC women. Lovelace was a brilliant mathematician who helped to introduce a computer binary system and set the groundwork for much of the work of programmers later to come. Similarly, Hopper was instrumental in the early development of computer assembler language. In 1945, six young women, Marlyn Meltzer, Ruth Teitelbaum, Kay Antonelli, Frances Spence, Jean Bartik, and Betty Holberton, programmed a machine called the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) and were instrumental in changing the face of computer programming.
Excited as I was to discover these hidden stories, I was disappointed to realize that the efforts of these and other pioneering women remained largely unrecognized. For the last few hundred centuries, women have put their energy into reclaiming their voices, experience, and presence in all facets of history, and I was dismayed to think that these contributions to technology might remain unacknowledged. To this end, we have worked together to bring you the stories of today’s brave women as they continue to venture into the virtual high seas of technology.
In this section of the book, you’ll discover the women who are educators, artists, musicians, and intellect strong voices emerging from diverse backgrounds and experience to come together in a collective voice of culture. These stories speak to each other, and part of the pleasure of reading them is discovering that dialogue. Many of these women have asked each other and themselves important questions about identity, gender, aesthetics, and culture and have each explored how these topics intersect with technology.
I hope you enjoy these stories as much as we have. Together may we continue to explore the exciting world of technology and embark on new voyages of discovery.