It’s Women’s History Month – Here are Two Women You Should Know

It turns out that this year’s theme for Women’s History Month is:

Women Inspiring Innovation through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

If you’re looking for an icon of women’s contributions to technology – I give you Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.  At the top of the right sidebar you’ll see a quote from her.

She was working on the foundations of the Big Data world a long time ago.  Consider these comments she made in a 1986 interview:

Yet, information in large quantities must flow smoothly to decision makers if large systems are to be managed efficiently. Computers can process, control and direct this flow of information, but the speed and capacity of a single computer are limited by physical factors such as the velocity of electronic and optical circuits and the ability to dissipate heat, by cost of hardware and software, and by the ability of human beings to construct error-free, monolithic systems. Only by paralleling processors can the physical limits be overcome. The division of systems into subsystems also provides an answer to the complexity and cost of software as well as reducing error potentials. Fortunately, the rapid reduction in the cost of hardware, occurring simultaneously with an increase in the power of hardware, makes modular systems possible in the present – and practical in the near future.

No, the big mainframes are going to disappear. In fact, I intend to scuttle them. They have to go. They’ll be too slow. We’ll build systems of computers. It will be a whole bunch of micros, and they’ll all call each other up and talk. If you use a big mainframe, first you have to do inventory and then you do payroll and so on. You might just as well have a micro doing each of those jobs all working in parallel. That’s the way you get the speed. The big pressure is going to be on faster answers. There never was a good reason for putting inventory and payroll on the same machine. The only reason you did it was because you could only afford to own one computer. That’s no longer true. The micros are as big [in terms of processing capacity] as mainframes were only 10 or 12 years ago. Back then a big mainframe had 64K. That’s smaller than today’s micros by a long shot.

Admiral Hopper is probably best known for a story about the first computer bug.  The bug was a moth caught in a computer relay. This is it:


It is said that she coined the term bug when it was found.

Of course that’s interesting but not very substantive.  You should read her bio here:

It’s a list of accomplishments as long as your arm.

Moving to the present day, for an example of accomplishment, leadership and inspiration in technology I commend Irene Qualters to you.  If you’re lucky enough to know her, you’ll know why.  If not, Google her.  You find out that you’re working in a world that she helped make.

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