Last week I heard Jean Jennings Bartik speak at the Computer History Museum. She told wonderful stories about what it was like to be one of the first programmers, after she had worked on the job as a “computer” calculating ballistic tables for the war effort. She was one of 6 women who were chosen to program the ENIAC. The machine had just been built and the women had to figure out how to make it calculate a trajectory by connecting wires and setting its 3000 switches.

Following her experience programming the ENIAC, she went to work at Eckert & Mauchley Corporation. She’s captured some of the tales in an essay that describes the company as a “Technical Camelot”. Well-worth reading, but I can’t find it online. They handed out paper copies at the event.

It was amazing to hear her stories live and in person. Kathryn Kleiman has filmed all of the ENIAC programmers and currently raising funds for a full-length documentary. You can make a personal donation or, even better, see if your company would be interested in a corporate sponsorship. If you can make an introduction, let me know, since I’ve been informally helping Kathy with bay area fundraising.

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