Female Techno Geeks

Top Secret Rosies

     During the mid ’40s, the iconic Rosie the Riveters of World War II had sisters tagged: Top Secret Rosies. Their efforts would validate the fact that women had brains in addition to brawn. My experience with these sorts of gals is detailed below in the segment titled “Night School.”

     Following is a video clip produced by LeAnn Erickson, an Associate Professor at Temple University in North Philadelphia:

The following statement is a lead in to this video documentary: In 1942, when computers were human and women were underestimated, a group of female mathematicians helped win a war and usher in the modern computer age . . . .

     To visit the official documentary website click here.

Night School

     During those times of carousing and employment seeking, I had attended Lincoln College Preparatory School, before enrolling at Drexel Institute of Technology—now named Drexel University.http://blogs.whatsontv.co.uk/movietalk/wp-content/gallery/unlikely-spys/enemy-of-the-state_4.jpg Drexel is the college Gene Hackman supposedly attended as the fictional character Brill—the retired NSA agent in the movie Enemy of the State. The movie script read that Brill graduated from Drexel University in 1964, the year I enrolled. However, he could not have graduated from Drexel University (DU) in 1964 because it was called Drexel Institute of Technology (DIT) at that time. This was a subtle Hollywood script error.
     Meanwhile, according to some black brothers, Drexel was a school for the heavy weights—thus implying it would be too difficult for me.


Geeky gals working on the ENIAC computer

     One evening while returning home on the el train after attending classes, I conversed with a female engineering student who attended the University of Pennsylvania (U of P). She had the typical ‘50s look: a swing skirt, bobby-socks, a bouffant hair style and wore horn rimmed glasses. This gal had the same geeky look as the IBM gals that worked on the Air Force SAGE computers.

     During our conversation she mentioned how the lights would dim on campus whenever the ENIAC computer was powered up at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering. She also mentioned a term I had heard in the service—an electronic brain. Moreover, her enrollment as an electrical engineering student was surprising to me; since I never heard of women engineers. I never saw her again; however, she made me aware of the influence of women during the pending age of computer technology.
     Following is an excerpt of a story of the ENIAC reprinted from the January-February 1961 issue of O R D N A N C E (The Journal of the American Ordnance Association):

By today’s standards for electronic computers, the ENIAC was a grotesque monster. Its thirty separate units, plus power supply and forced-air cooling, weighed over thirty tons. Its 19,000 vacuum tubes, 1,500 relays, and hundreds of thousands of resistors, capacitors, and inductors consumed almost 200 kilowatts of electrical power.

     This computer would eventually evolve into the forerunner of the Air Force’s SAGE computer. For a retro view of a previous post about SAGE on a seperate page click here.

     Years later I discovered that most of the mathematicians and programmers during the original development of the computer were women. Some were a bunch of dorky local Philly chicks from Girls’ High, in North Philly. Girls attending this school were always considered to be stuck up snobs by the rest of the school crowd in the city.

http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/storage/storage_3380c.html     To no one’s surprise, women still participate in leading edge technology. My recent training by women to build this website is a testament to this fact. Moreover, my daughter has remained abreast of me when employing new technological innovations. In fact, relatives and her college contemporaries have tagged her “Techno.”

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14 comments on “Female Techno Geeks

  1. This is an outstanding post. The information is detailed and spot on. The video, showcasing the twin sisters and other women, who used their brains to help win the war is truly a must see.

    You are very correct, women not only participate in cutting edge technology, they are, without a doubt, leading the way.

    Thank you for such a well thought out post.


  2. Love the blog Earl, and am honored to be considered among these smart women!

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