Sunday 8 February 2015

Queen of Code

I wrote a trib to Grace Hopper [R, posing at an early computer holding an early COBOL manual] inventor of the first higher level computing language COBOL to celebrate her birthday 9th Dec 1906 and I included her in the list of Women in Science which was shorter back then, a year-and-a-bit ago, but now has 31 inspirational scientists.  I didn't realise just how sassy and funny the woman was, much less gravitas than you'd expect from an Admiral until I watched a nice short film biography over on FiveThirtyEight . . . which is owned and operated by Nate Silver, author of Signal & Noise [Blob-review].  Talk about an Axis of Awesome: Though she be but little, she is fierce - she was 5 feet nothing in her socks.  For those of you who are fans of Community, you'll like that the director of The Queen of Code is Gillian "Britta" Jacobs.  There's an interview with the Director accompanying the film and they talk about how, when and why women got squeezed out of computer programming. In the early days, apparently, the massive hardware was seen as the sexy side of computing so naturally the blokes ring-fenced that, passing off the software to women.  It soon became apparent, particularly after solid-state transistors replaced fragile vacuum-tube from 1947, that hardware was reliable and boring. That's when men started key-punching like <shock> secretaries. An early tipping point was the portrayal "To be a programmer you have to be antisocial and solitary". That's bollix, I've been programming computers for the last 35 years and I've written code is at least six different languages (including fragments of COBOL).  I'd like to assert, here and now, that my best and most productive programming has been carried out when I was back to back with other coders (thanks Liz, Conall, Avril, Karsten, Greg, Łukasz and Brian) swapping modules and code-fragments and ideas. I've done the solitary geek stuff as well and a) it wasn't efficient b) it wasn't as much fun.

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