History of UNIVAC at ArsTechnica

The nerd news website ArsTechnica recently published an article by Mathew Lasar on the history of the UNIVAC I computer.  It’s a nice little piece that draws heavily on Kurt Beyer’s excellent recent biography of Grace Hopper and Paul Ceruzzi’s classic History of Modern Computing (one of the earliest of the books published as part of MIT Press’ History of Computing series, of which The Computer Boys Take Over is the latest entry).

Lasar highlights a issue relevant to the history of computer programming that I had previously not encountered (or at least noticed).  In discussing the female programmers that Grace Hopper had cultivated at the Eckert Mauchly Computer Company, he notes that after the sale of EMCC to Remington Rand, many of these women left to pursue other opportunities, largely because of the lack of respect they felt in their new big-corporation environment:

“On top of that, new management did not sympathize with EMCC’s female programmers, among them Grace Hopper, who by 1952 had written the UNIVAC’s first software compiler. ‘There were not the same opportunities for women in larger corporations like Remington Rand,’ she later reflected. ‘They were older companies, and the jobs had been stereotyped.'”

During the labor crisis in programming that emerged in the 1950s, these women had plenty of other opportunities, Lasar argues, and many departed for other, more enlightened employers.  Read the whole article.  A nice piece, and it is good to see this history get rediscovered for a contemporary audience (particularly in a venue as popular as ArsTechnica).

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