Okay, sort of had to find out because of this handy little diagram.
24 March 2010
Happy Ada Lovelace Day!
Excitement! Drama! Women being good at math!
Okay, seriously, a computer used to be a female profession, not a machine. There have been some wonderful histories of computing discussing the images of early computers showing men in uniforms in front of computers who were really the office managers and didn't have a clue as to how the things actually worked. The women were shooed out of the room, or cropped out of the picture because the military thought it would hurt their credibility if computers weren't properly butch. The above linked PDF has one such example. The rise of automated computing removed a significant career path in mathematics from the hands of women and put its tasks in the hands of their (male) managers. And when programming shifted from being the work of mathematicians to the work of engineers, women were not brought along for the ride.
Interesting side note: In the mid-1980s, computer programming was considered a joke degree that you only took because you didn't have what it took to be an engineer. I always wondered how many of those first generation of college-trained programmers were laughing all the way to the bank.
Oh, and links mostly pillaged from boingboing.