You are afraid to forget the ENIAC women’s team

As soon as I mention the pen, I feel that I have to open an ad soft article for the XX technical school. In fact, I want to share with you the issues of gender and programming. Before I start, I want to ask everyone, do you think gender is related to programming? If so, what is the relationship? Some people may say: Most of the programmers on the market today are boys. This is true, but you have known that in history, women are closely related to programming. Most of the following things may not be known, let me give you a popular science:

○ The first programmer in the world is a woman. That’s right, it’s Ada Lovelace. What kind of person is Aida? She is the daughter of the poet Byron. It is the Byron who wrote “Tang Yu”.

○ A group of female programmers who participated in the operation and maintenance of the world’s first computer. This computer is called ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer). The names of these female programmers are worth remembering. Their names are Kathleen McNulty, Frances Bilas, Betty Jean Jennings, Betty Holberton, Ruth Lichterman, and Marlyn Wescoff.

○ From the beginning of computer development to the mid-20th century, programming has always been considered a more suitable job for women, because women are more serious, meticulous, persistent and tenacious.

Google’s graffiti to commemorate Ada Lovelace’s birthday

Surprise? So not curious? From the late 20th century, technical discourse has always been dominated by men. Who can think that in history, women are tied tightly with programming. So why is there an intimate bundling of “female-programming”? And why do women disappear under the modern technical discourse system? What kind of historical changes and power relations changes have you experienced in the middle?

Programmer “Girls” in World War II

Jennifer S. Light (1999) details the unknown history of female programming in the article “When Computers Were Women.”

During the Second World War, the Allies and the Axis were in a tight battle. Both sides invested a lot of money in the military computer field under the talents of human and material resources. Due to the increasing demand for large-scale ballistic missile range analysis, the demand for employment in the computer field is increasing. The quality of women’s patience, focus, and persistence is considered to be very suitable for programming. So with the advancement of the war, women joined the IT field on a large scale. The most representative of these is the “ENIAC Girls” mentioned earlier. ENIAC is known as the world’s first computer, and the “ENIAC Women’s Group” is the world’s first female group to participate in the development of computer programming.

“ENIAC Women’s Team” in World War II

Having said that, I actually want to continue to boast of them as the “science goddess” in the hearts of girls: female scientists who are engaged in sophisticated technology. So, is this actually the case? Yes, no. From the “yes” level, they were trained in the rigorous computer science and mathematics algorithm courses of the American Military Education School, and they can be regarded as experts in the field. For example, because the computers at the time were huge (about 170 square meters), the female experts were mainly responsible for the operation and deployment of the tubes, which is the current program development and code writing.

From the perspective of “no”, the computer field during World War II continued the existing gender inequality structure and there was a hierarchical division of patriarchy. What does it mean? At the time, the entire computer technology team was divided into male “scientists” and female “operators.” According to the regulations, the male “scientist” is the commander, mainly responsible for the establishment of the overall design and operation system of the computer software, while the female “operator” is the command executor, and the computer operation processing should be carried out under the leadership and command of the former. Under this two-dimensional relationship, male scientists are considered to be “brain laborers” and planners, while female operators are merely manual laborers and obedients responsible for hardware deployment. It is very obvious that this gender division of labor completely ignores women’s contribution to the computer field. Jennifer Wright believes that the “ENIAC Women’s Group” responsible for the operation and deployment of the tube is one of the most important tasks in the IT industry today – programming.

The development of the computer industry and the disappearance of the program

With the end of World War II, a large number of male soldiers began to demobilize and demobilize, posing great challenges to post-war resettlement work. In addition, in many countries, women’s work abroad is still a violation of tradition. Therefore, this idea of ​​giving way to men has caused a large-scale retreat of women in the IT field. At the same time, because of the end of the war, the government has stopped a large number of computer research and development related projects, and the number of female “computer operators” jobs has begun to decrease. At this point, women began the first large-scale “disappearance” in the field of programming.

Since the middle of the 20th century, the importance of software programming and electronic data processing (EDP) has become increasingly prominent in the development of countries, and its commercialization trend is becoming more and more obvious. In this environment, female computer “operators” reappear in the market environment. At the same time, the term “programmer” became popular. According to previous literature statistics, female programmers in the 1960s and 1970s accounted for 30%-50% of the employed population in the computer field. But it is worth noting that despite the large-scale existence of female programmers, they are only referred to as the “high-level workforce” rather than “engineers” or “scientists”. In 1969, American male programmers earned an average of $13,149 per year, while women had only $7,763 (Hacker, 1989). Equal pay for equal work is still an urgent problem to be solved.

Since the 1980s, the number of female programmers has gradually decreased and has gradually been replaced by men. There are many reasons for this. Some people blame the pre-set education of men and women in modern society. That is, when they were young, boys were encouraged to explore, take risks, try to program new things, and women were given more Barbie dolls and Winnie-the-pooh.

Some people also blame the “professionalism” of programming in the modernization system, and this kind of construction is actually a kind of discourse unequalness under the premise of male stipulation, including gender identity such as “dead house”, “house man” and “code farmer”. The establishment of. Generally speaking, the discourse construction of technical main business has obvious male-dominated presuppositions, such as overtime work, technical home, obsessive code, and social dissatisfaction. The characteristics of IT males will be unified and generalized by the organization. Incarnation has become synonymous with “professionalism.” This professionalism completely ignores the “characteristics” of women in family, marriage and daily life, which is why most people think of programming, they will think of male programmers, not women.

In recent years, according to my observations, more and more women are beginning to join the programming, and related groups and communities are constantly emerging. Will this be another historical cycle? This time, can girls have more independent choices? If you happen to be the girl who wants to learn programming but hesitates, I want to say that you have the good quality of learning programming, at least in history. So, add more effort, you can!


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