The female women programmers of ENIAC

The ENIAC programmers project is a project by Kathy Kleiman, a young programmer in the mid-1980s, who has recorded oral histories with the original ENIAC female programmers in the late 1990s. Their stories were fascinating but lost for more than 50 years. In Kathy’s words: “Not only did they program the ENIAC, the first all-electronic, digital computer during WWII without manuals or programming languages, but they dedicated years after the war to making programming easier and more accessible for all of us who followed”.

ca. 1940s --- Computer operators program ENIAC, the first electronic digital computer, by plugging and unplugging cables and adjusting switches. | Location: Mid-Atlantic USA. --- Image by © CORBIS

ca. 1940s — Computer operators program ENIAC, the first electronic digital computer, by plugging and unplugging cables and adjusting switches. | Location: Mid-Atlantic USA. — Image by © CORBIS

The image of a computer programmer is a man. But this wasn’t always true. It was often women who pioneered computer programming and many pioneers of software were women, beginning with Babbage’s friend and muse Ada Countess of Lovelace. ENIAC is a myth in computer music community, because computers have made noises since this giant was rolled out in 1947. Different sounds would indicate that everything was operating properly, or not! Stories of these pioneer programmers are narrated by Kathy Kleiman site. Other scattered stories can be found in the book by Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators. How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, which also contains audio files and interviews (one of which has been shared by Simon & Schuster Audio).

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