In early 1945, the United States military was recruiting female mathematicians for a top-secret project to help win World War II. Betty Jean Jennings (Bartik), a twenty-year-old college graduate from rural northwest Missouri, wanted an adventure, so she applied for the job. She was hired as a “computer” to calculate artillery shell trajectories for Aberdeen Proving Ground, and later joined a team of women who programmed the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), the first successful general-purpose programmable electronic computer. In 1947, Bartik headed up a team that modified the ENIAC into the first stored-program electronic computer.
Even with her talents, Bartik met obstacles in her career due to attitudes about women’s roles in the workplace. Her perseverance paid off and she worked with the earliest computer pioneers and helped launch the commercial computer industry. Despite their contributions, Bartik and the other female ENIAC programmers have been largely ignored. In the only autobiography by any of the six original ENIAC programmers, Bartik tells her story, exposing myths about the computer’s origin and properly crediting those behind the computing innovations that shape our daily lives.
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A delightful read from someone who was there
Pioneer Programmer is the autobiography of one of the computing field's earliest pioneers, from her early days on a farm to her final days as a newly-rediscovered icon of technology. But as Jean Bartik weaves the story of her own life, she gives outstanding insight into the other personalities at work in those early days. Bartik fills the pages with much love and admiration for her many of her ENIAC and UNIVAC teammates, especially John Mauchly and Presper Eckert. She also does not shy away from addressing the obstacles that stood in her way over the years, both from a male-dominated culture and politics, both corporate and military. The result is an honest, balanced snapshot of computing's pioneer days, and the story of a woman who lived her childhood dream of accomplishing big things in the big city. Her work on ENIAC and beyond helped create the modern world. Every modern programmer should take the time to hear her story in her own words.