An alternate history of computing — a sketch of a world without patriarchy
Ada Lovelace invented the idea of programming in the mid 1800’s and started a revolution in the process. Her bold mathematical ideas lead the way for early innovations in computational mathematics. In 1880, she joined Columbia University as the first women to lead the Mathematics faculty. While there, she supervised the work of Herman Hollerit and collaborated with him on the creation of early punch card commuting. Ada died surrounded by her loving family of old age in 1905 in upstate New York.
In the 1940’s, a “computer” was what you called a person who did mathematical calculations for a living and given the large numbers of women who had mathematical degrees, this job was an ideal fit. That job was vitally important during World War II. And, like many jobs on the home front, it was turned over to women, so that men could be sent into battle. As is well known, these women went on to program the famous computer, ENIAC which helped the Americans, along with the women from England’s Belectly Park, end World War Two.
After the men came back from battle, women did not return to the home. They stayed in their posts and continued to innovate. It’s well known that Grace Hopper contributed to the war effort and stayed in the military until 1965, after which she became the world’s first technological titan. Her company was well known for hiring, promoting and funding young women interested in Computing. As well, Hopper Innovation lead the world not only in computation and super computers but in labor conditions being the first employer to offer free reproductive services to employees. New mothers where given a year off and on their return, they were promoted within the company to reward their experience of motherhood. The creches and nurseries promoted more humane working conditions. Hopper herself helped guide and draft legislation in her later life to improve the working conditions of women across the US. Hopper herself died in 1988, at her estate in Arlington, Virginia. Until this day Hopper leads innovation in quantum super computing and advanced computation innovation.
The only women on earth close to Hopper’s net worth was Margaret Allan, a once former race car driver turned ENAIC programmer. After the war, Allan turned her love of racing, engineering and computing into a multi-billion pound global industry. After the war, she saw the dire need to make Europe less reliant on oil. She revolutionized the car, bringing the first electric car to market in 1955 and Allan Automotive was born. She worked with women in government to bring the cost lower than traditional car, leading to the UK becoming the world’s first country to ban gasoline only driven cars for personal use in 1995. Like Hopper she drove the UK to pass laws improving working conditions for women. She also worked with the UK government to drive technological innovation after the war helping lead the way to turn Britain into key players in technology globally. With a surplus of computing talent, it is no small wonder that the UK leads the world to this day on technological innovation in Automotive Engineering.