Take Back the Net: Joy Rankin’s A People’s History of Computing in the United States #WomenInSTEM @larafreidenfeld @nursingclio

Women holding parts of the first four Army computers. ( Historic Computer Images/Wikimedia Commons)

Via Nursing Clio: Lara Freidenfelds discusses A People’s History of Computing in the United States by Joy Lisi Rankin. (Harvard University Press)

Rankin shows that it was the hippie ‘60s and ‘70s, not the corporate and consumerist ‘80s and ‘90s, that first gave shape and possibility to connectedness via computing. She gives us a new origin story for computer-based connectedness, anchored in the worlds of college and high school education and student participation rather than Silicon Valley entrepreneurship. In this origin story, ordinary Americans were “computing citizens” before Silicon Valley turned us into “computing consumers.”

As Rankin describes, early postwar computers, while stunning innovations, were inaccessible to most of the world, and inconvenient even to those who were permitted to use them. These gigantic mainframes lived in major research universities and government research offices. Anyone who wanted to run a program on one of them had to translate their program into punch cards, physically deliver the stack of punch cards to the computer’s staff, and wait while their punch cards were batched with those of other programmers so that the computer’s time would be used efficiently. If the program returned an error, the disappointed programmer would take the punchcards home to debug and try again, perhaps weeks later. In this setup, the computer’s time was treated as much more valuable than the programmer’s.

A Sweet Briar student using an early computer in the Mary Helen Cochran Library, 1982. (Mary Helen Cochran Library/Flickr)
A Sweet Briar student using an early computer in the Mary Helen Cochran Library, 1982. (Mary Helen Cochran Library/Flickr)

There is a resurgence in documenting the role of women in programming and maintaining computers.

These networked communities were not utopias; Rankin gives a sensitive description of the ways in which 1960s gender norms played out as users interacted. Macho Dartmouth men used their computing prowess to impress their Mount Holyoke dates. On PLATO, female users sometimes complained of harassment. (Archive nerds will especially appreciate Rankin’s use of several years’ worth of preserved message board exchanges to document community interactions.) Still, these were vibrant communities in which women found ways to make their mark.

See the entire review here.

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here: adafruit.com/editorialstandards

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in! adafruit.com/mastodon

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community! http://adafru.it/discord

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers – CircuitPython.org

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at AdafruitDaily.com !

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.