As has always happened in history, not a few women have actively participated in the development of computing. However, their names were buried and forgotten. Women whose ideas and contributions made possible many of the advances in the world of computing and technology, who deserve to be remembered at least to certify that, today, progress is, luckily for everyone, the fruit of a shared effort.
1.Ada Lovelace, the first programmer
To talk about Ada Lovelace we must go back to the first half of the 19th century. Considered the first programmer in history, she was the daughter of the English poet Lord Byron. Her mother, Anabella, abandoned the poet and endeavored so that her daughter did not have any destructive artistic tendencies of her father, so she trained her in mathematics and logical thinking. Something unusual at the time, but it was not excessively strange, since she was also a mathematician by profession. However, Ada also inherited her paternal genes. He retained his creativity, and at the age of 12 he dreamed of creating flying machines.
Although computers did not exist in her time, this mathematician devoted her work to the mechanical calculator and is credited with the first encoded algorithm intended to be processed by a machine (she proposed that through punched cards), which gives her a place prominent in the history of computing. As a fitting tribute, in 1979, the United States Department of Defense created a programming language named after him, Ada.
2.Wi-Fi and bluetooth thanks to Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr’s story has all the makings of a great story: the golden Hollywood of the 1940s, the Nazi regime advancing through Europe, an incredible escape to the United States from Hitler’s Germany, and a revolutionary invention in telecommunications, kept secretly, that it would change the course of events.
Viennese actress of Jewish origin Hedy Lemarr (1914-2000), who, in the middle of World War II, invented the precursor technology of Wi-Fi, which today serves almost all users of the multiple screens with which we live. Gifted and telecommunications engineer, Lamarr was known as one of the most beautiful beauties in Hollywood and her great fondness for inventions was less talked about.
Among other ingenuities, he invented a secret communication system based on frequencies and that in the eighties began to be used in civil engineering: it would serve as the basis for wireless communication that today seems to us the daily bread and is applied to mobile phones, modems and also to the GPS.
3.The brilliant mind of Joan Clarke
Brilliant mathematician and one of the most exceptional minds of the 20th century, Britain’s Joan Clarke’s work has been forgotten for 70 years.
It was the 1940s and the whole of Europe was threatened by Nazi Germany. Its military forces used state-of-the-art technology since 1930 whose inviolability seemed impossible to break. It was the Enigma Code, a machine created by the German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of the First World War, which had a rotary encryption mechanism, which allowed it to be used both to encrypt and decrypt messages.
Joan Clarke is one of many women involved in cracking the code, being at the nerve center of the project. He worked hand in hand with Turing and the rest of the scientists who helped crack this code and save thousands of lives. Despite the strong gender inequality that existed at that time, Clarke’s colleagues always considered her one more.
4.Grace Hopper and the first compiler
Grace Hopper was a member of the United States Army and a renowned computer mathematician. It was the forerunner of the COBOL language, a compiler that was key in the development of modern computing.
Thanks to this system, times were accelerated and performance improved in programming. Without that invention, language would be an endless succession of ones and zeros. So, for example, installing Windows would require 20 gigabytes of harddrive space and would take 5,000 years to complete.
In addition to her long career in the navy, which led to the rank of rear admiral, Hopper created the first compiler for a computer language and was one of the first programmers of the Mark I, a famous electromechanical computer used during World War II.
5.Radia Perlman, the mother of the internet
She is often considered “the mother of the internet,” but she does not like this title at all. It seems like an exaggeration to him because he does not believe that a single individual can be said to be responsible for creating the internet. Criticizes, also, that it is a title that highlights the genre, something that should matter little in this case.
Regardless, Rita Perlman did not earn this title in vain. While working for the Digital Equipment Corporation, he invented the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) that transformed the way Ethernet works. A computer technician would say that it is “an algorithm that is responsible for recognizing and managing loops in network topologies that arise due to redundant links.” Fortunately, Perlman explains it much more simply, which we summarize here:
“Before the web existed, which connects different networks, devices could only be interconnected in a local area network, called ethernet. There was no protocol that made it possible for one ethernet to communicate with another without the connection collapsing due to excess data. Perlman’s Spanning-Tree Protocol allowed just this. It could be said that he established the rules for internet traffic “
6.Margaret Hamilton, the woman who took us to the Moon
On the 50th anniversary of the human landing on the Moon, we could not forget the brilliant Margaret Hamilton , one of the minds that made this great step possible for humanity.
And it is that Hamilton came to be in charge of the direction and supervision of the software of the Apollo missions. The images that we know of the first man on the Moon would never have been real if it had not been for Hamilton and his team, who, minutes before the moon landing, solved an error that could have prevented it.
In addition, I work on the multiple variations of the software used in different missions, including the Skylab project.
They are just some of the women who are part of the history of computing. Today we want to pay tribute to all those who do not leave and all those who will come.