When the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer was introduced in 1946 as a tool for calculating the trajectory of artillery shells, it made headlines nationwide as the first all-electronic computer. But there was little mention of Jean Jennings Bartik and the other women who programmed the machine, charting new territory by converting math into a nascent machine language.
Do a quick Google News search for "women in technology" and your results are sure to be bemoaning the lack of female bodies in the industry (or maybe just results for that White Town album). Last year both the NYT and the WSJ had articles related to the topic – and published within a few weeks of each other – with the WSJ’s title being “Addressing the Lack of Women Leading Tech Start-Ups” and the intro to the NYT piece setting the tone with: “It’s become a familiar lament: Where are the women in technology?” Likewise, the Wikipedia entry for "Women in Computing" focuses almost entirely on the decline of women in tech-related fields, the modern day fights against sexism in the industry, and has sections like "Attracting women in computer science" and "Gender theory and women in computing." (Interesting side note: there is no entry for "Men in computing.")
Very rarely do stories of women and technology vary in tone from the gender gap theme. Where are the women? Well, heck, we’ve been here all along - something we've recently pointed out in our Valentine's Day piece about ENIAC. So, in honor of Women's History Month and Ada Lovelace Day (March 24th), and all the women in tech, we’ve decided to pay homage by counting down the 15 Most Important Women in Tech History.
ENIAC. These days, the name conjures up one ginormous lonely computer, a relic of other times. But back in the day – February 14, 1946 to be specific – the US Army thought pretty highly of its brand new Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, the world’s first general-purpose electronic computer.
Created with the original intent of calculating artillery firing tables for the Army’s Ballistic Research Laboratory, ENIAC’s completion was announced on Valentine’s Day, and then formally introduced to the American public the very next day on February 15.
This year, our Valentine’s Day ode to computing takes the form of one dozen lovely factoids about ENIAC. Enjoy!