[AfrICANN-discuss] On Women's day, celebrate the ones who made it happen ; -)

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Tue Mar 8 17:35:07 SAST 2011


 [image: Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli] [image: Jean Jennings
Bartik] [image:
Frances Snyder Holberton] [image: Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer] [image: Frances
Bilas Spence] [image: Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum]

 The ENIAC Programmers

Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, Jean Jennings Bartik, Frances Snyder
Holberton, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Frances Bilas Spence and Ruth Lichterman
(profiles at the time of induction in 1997)

The first programmers started out as "Computers." This was the name given by
the Army to a group of over 80 women working at the University of
Pennsylvania during World War II calculating ballistics trajectories -
complex differential equations - by hand. When the Army agreed to fund an
experimental project, the first all-electronic digital computer, six
"Computers" were selected in 1945 to be its first programmers. They were
Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, Jean Jennings Bartik, Frances Snyder
Holberton, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Frances Bilas Spence and Ruth Lichterman

The ENIAC was the first all-electronic digital computer, a machine of
approximately 18,000 vacuum tubes and forty black 8-foot panels. Because the
ENIAC project was classified, the programmers were denied access to the
machine they were supposed to tame into usefulness until they received their
security clearances. As the first programmers, they had no programming
manuals or courses, only the logical diagrams to help them figure out how to
make the ENIAC work.

They had none of the programming tools of today. Instead, the programmers
had to physically program the ballistics program by using the 3000 switches
and dozens of cables and digit trays to physically route the data and
program pulses through the machine. Therefore, the description for the first
programming job might have read: "Requires physical effort, mental
creativity, innovative spirit, and a high degree of patience."

On February 15, 1946, the ENIAC Computer was unveiled to the public and
press. It ran the ballistics trajectory programmed by the six programmers
and captured the world's imagination.

In 1947, the ENIAC was turned into a "stored program" computer, the world's
first. Thus, these six programmers were the only generation of programmers
to program it at the machine level.

All six women contributed to the programming the ENIAC. Many of these
pioneer programmers went on to develop innovative tools for future software
engineers and to teach others early programming techniques.

Marlyn Meltzer and Ruth Teitelbaum were a special team of ENIAC programmers.
As "Computers" for the Army, they calculated ballistics trajectory equations
painstakingly using desktop calculators, an analog technology of the time.
Chosen to be ENIAC programmers, they taught themselves and others certain
functions of the ENIAC and helped prepare the ballistics program. After the
war, Ruth relocated with the ENIAC to Aberdeen, Maryland, where she taught
the next generation of ENIAC programmers how to use the unique new computing

Frances Spence and Kathleen Antonelli were a second ENIAC team. Both
mathematics majors in the class of 1942 of Chestnut Hill College in
Philadelphia, they responded to the Army's call for mathematicians and were
assigned to operate the Differential Analyzer, a huge analog machine of
which there were only a few in the world. Fran and Kay led the teams of
women who used this machine to calculate the ballistics equations. After the
war, both Fran and Kay continued with the ENIAC to program equations for
some of the world's foremost mathematicians. Kay married Dr. John Mauchly
who, together with J. Presper Eckert, invented the ENIAC and UNIVAC
computers, and Kay worked with John on program designs and techniques for
many years.

The third ENIAC programming team was comprised of Jean Bartik and Betty
Holberton. As ENIAC programmers, they took on the challenging task of
learning the Master Programmer that directed the performance of all program
sequences of the ENIAC. They led the entire group in programming the
ballistics trajectory for the February 14, 1946 demonstration, but that was
only the beginning.

After the War, Jean Bartik worked on the team that converted the ENIAC into
a stored program machine, making it easier and faster to program larger and
more sophisticated problems. Jean then programmed the BINAC, designed logic
for UNIVAC I, designed an electrostatic memory backup system for UNIVAC I,
and later, developed reports to help businesses understand a powerful new
class of computers, the microcomputer. She worked tirelessly to make
computers easier to use.

After programming the ENIAC, Betty Holberton joined the company founded by
Eckert and Mauchly and worked on the first commercial computers. She wrote
the C-10 instruction code for UNIVAC I, forever making programming easier
and faster for programmers. She designed the control console for UNIVAC I
and its computer keyboards and numeric keypad. In 1952, she designed the
first sort merge generator for UNIVAC I. She served on the COBOL committee
to design the first business language to operate across computer platforms,
wrote standards for FORTRAN and served on national and international
computer standards committees for decades.
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