October 03, 2008

Eniac Programmers Documentary at Computer History Museum

Check out the notice below about the documentary showing on October 22, 2008 about the Eniac Programmers. Should be a fantastic night!

eniacprogrammer.jpgThe Computer History Museum Presents
An Evening with Jean Jennings Bartik - 1945 ENIAC Programming Pioneer
Computer History Museum | Hahn Auditorium
1401 N. Shoreline Blvd. Mountain View, CA 94043
Wine provided by The Mountain Winery
To register: click here or call (650) 810-1005.

We hope to see you at this celebration of pioneering women in computing -- an event 60 years in the making!

Kathy Kleiman, Historian & Executive Producer, ENIAC Programmers Project

About ENIAC Pioneer Jean Bartik. Jean Jennings Bartik was one of the first programmers of the groundbreaking ENIAC computing system in 1945. She later assisted in converting the ENIAC system into one of the first stored-program computers.

Born on a farm in Missouri, the sixth of seven children, Bartik always went in search of adventure. Bartik majored in mathematics at Northwest Missouri State Teachers College (now Northwest Missouri State University). In 1945, at age 20, Bartik answered the Army's Ballistics Research Lab's call for women math majors to join a project in Philadelphia calculating ballistics firing tables for the new guns developed for the WWII effort - she joined over 80 women calculating ballistics trajectories by hand (differential calculus equations) - Her title: "Computer."

Later in 1945, the Army circulated a call for "computers" for a new job with a secret machine. Bartik jumped at the chance and was hired as one of the original six programmers of ENIAC, the first all-electronic, programmable computer. She joined Frances "Betty" Snyder Holberton, Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum and Frances Bilas Spence in this unknown journey.

With ENIAC's 40 panels still under construction, and its 18,000 vacuum tube technology uncertain, the engineers had no time for programming manuals or classes. Bartik and the other women taught themselves ENIAC's operation from its logical and electrical block diagrams, and then figured out how to program it. They created their own flow charts, programming sheets, wrote the program and placed it on the ENIAC using a challenging physical interface, which had hundreds of wires and 3,000 switches. It was an unforgettable, wonderful experience.

On February 15, 1946, the Army revealed the existence of ENIAC to the public. In a special ceremony, the Army introduced ENIAC and its hardware inventors Dr. John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert. The presentation featured its trajectory ballistics program, operating at a speed thousands of time faster than any prior calculations. The ENIAC women's program worked perfectly - and conveyed the immense calculating power of ENIAC and its ability to tackle the millennium problems that had previously taken a man 100 years to do. It calculated the trajectory of a shell that took 30 seconds to trace it. But, it took ENIAC only 20 seconds to calculate it - faster than a speeding bullet! Indeed!

The Army never introduced the ENIAC women.

No one gave them any credit or discussed their critical part in the event that day. Their faces, but not their names, became part of the beautiful press pictures of the ENIAC. For forty years, their roles and their pioneering work were forgotten and their story lost to history. The ENIAC Women's story was discovered by Kathy Kleiman in 1985. Bartik will discuss what it means to be overlooked, despite unique and pioneering work, and what it means to be discovered again.

In conversation with Linda O'Bryon, Bartik will also discuss:

* Leading the programming team to convert ENIAC to one of the first stored-program machines (and working with Dr. John von Neumann on ENIAC's first instruction set)
* Working in "Technical Camelot" at the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, as programmer of BINAC and logic designer of UNIVAC
* Sexism and stereotypes at Remington Rand and her first-hand experience with the abuse of women and the misuse of technology
* Friends and pioneers computing history should not forget, including tributes to Betty Holberton, Kay Mauchly Antonelli, the other ENIAC programmers, Dr. John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert
* Some pieces of advice to live by.

About the ENIAC Programmers Project. Founded in 1997, the ENIAC Programmers Project is dedicated to recording, preserving and sharing the stories of women computer pioneers. Its founder, Kathy Kleiman, discovered the ENIAC Programmers as a passing reference in an computing pioneer's autobiography, sought them out, researched and recorded their oral histories. Her nomination of Jean Bartik for the Computer History Museum's 2008 Fellow Award led to this special recognition -- after 60 years!

The Computer History Museum's VIP reception honors Jean Bartik and recognizes the ENIAC Programmers Project's long quest to make a feature-length documentary about the women of ENIAC, WWII Rosie the Riveters who invented many of the concepts of modern programming!

To learn more about this inspiring story and opportunities for documentary support and sponsorship, please go to www.eniacprogrammers.org or contact Kathy Kleiman at Kathy@eniacprogrammers.org.
The ENIAC Programmers Project
Honoring Computer Pioneers and Preserving Their Stories
Feature-length documentary "Invisible Computers: The Untold Story of the ENIAC Programmers" now in development & fundraising.

Posted by Mary Hodder at October 3, 2008 06:06 PM | TrackBack

This story is really interesting. Back then it was really hard for women to be honored for their efforts. The only women important for our technological development I know are Marie Curie and now Jean Jennings Bartik.

Posted by: Flug at December 2, 2008 01:43 AM