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The First Computer Programmer was a woman – Ada Lovelace | #WomensDay

by Milicent Atieno
first computer programmer

When you talk about computer programming in modern times, among the first things you will notice is that the women folks are largely underrepresented. That in itself is quite ironic, as women were the pioneer programmers for computers. Ada Lovelace (a woman), was the first person publish the first computer algorithm.

She wrote the algorithm for what was among the earliest forms of computer, the Analytical Engine by Charles Babbage. She is regarded as the first computer programmer for the work she did on this early computer.

Lovelace story began in the early 1800s when Edward Charles Pickering hired a group of women to work for him at Harvard. The women, known as Pickering’s harem at the time or the Harvard Computers, did clerical work that the men employees and scholars deemed too tedious. These women were also being paid a fraction of what a man doing the job were being paid. Sound all too familiar with today’s world’s employment remuneration between men and women for same work.

The first compiler for a programming language was built by Grace Hopper, one of the first programmers for the Mark I computer. An electro-mechanical computer based on the Analytical Engine.

The regular programmers working on the ENIAC computer back in 1944 were six female mathematicians; Betty Holberton, Frances Spence, Kathleen Antonelli, Marlyn Meltzer, Ruth Teitelbaum, and Jean Bartik.

Other women who made significant contributions to the world of Computer Sciencefirst computer programmer

Adele Goldstine was one of the teachers that trained the six original programmers who were working on the ENIAC computer. She died in 1964 of cancer at the age of 44.

Adele Goldberg was among the seven programmers who came up with Smalltalk in the 70s. Smalltalk was among the pioneer object-oriented programming languages and the base of the current graphic user interface. Apple used Small talk in the release of the Apple Lisa back in 1983 ushering a new age of PC with GUI. The next year, they followed it with the launch of Macintosh. Microsoft’s Windows 1.0 launched a few months later in 1985 was based on the same principles.

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