Jean Jennings Bartik, who was one of the earliest women in the IT industry, has died. She was 86.
Bartik was one of six women who programmed and debugged the first general-purpose computer dubbed the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIC)
She was part of a team of female mathematicians who were recruited by the U.S. military to perform ballistics research during World War II. The women were called “computers” and went on to program the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer. They did not receive recognition for their work until years later.
Bartik said she resisted her dad’s talk of marrying a farmer and having children, and took a train to Philadelphia to work for the military. She learnt ballistics calculations and was quickly hired to work on the ENIAC, created during the war by University of Pennsylvania scientists John Mauchly and Presper Eckert.
ENIC weighed 30 tons and contained 18,000 vacuum tubes. Bartik and her colleagues were in charge of debugging it.
She later went on to work in the BINAC and UNIVAC computers before moving into the high-tech publishing field.
Her work featured in the documentary “Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II” and she wrote an autobiography that is being edited.
In 1997, Bartik was inducted into the Women in Technology Hall of Fame, along with her fellow ENIAC programmers, Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, Frances Snyder Holberton, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Frances Bilas Spence and Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum.
Last month Bartik was in the headlines saying that women hadn’t gotten far enough in technology, but she saw a promising future. “Women are busily working on it… I have high hopes for them,” she said.There’s more about her here.