It’s March and you know what that means – sun and recognizing women’s contributions to American history.
In 1980, a consortium of women’s groups and historians—led by the National Women’s History Project (now the National Women’s History Alliance)—successfully lobbied for national recognition. In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8th 1980 as National Women’s History Week.
Like Black History Month, which also began as a weeklong celebration recognizing the many great contributions of the black community, Women’s History Month now has its 3-week extension to extoll the many great things women have contributed to all facets of society, including technology (of which Brand Labs’ own path makers, co-presidents Danielle Lewis and Michelle Pittell would certainly feel at home among – both had the vision and foresight to recognize two visions are better than one and partnered up to lead the company).
It’s for these reasons and many more we are excited to pay tribute to the pioneers, and the “mothers” of inventions and innovations who have shaped today’s IT.
From trailblazers to game changers in design, programming and wireless tech, meet just a sample of women who many consider the stalwarts of the movement.
Ada Lovelace, Algorithm Enchantress
Developed an algorithm for a computer that didn’t yet exist, likely qualifying her as the world’s first computer programmer. Born to English nobility in 1815, Lovelace was put to work by Charles Babbage in 1843, documenting his never-to-be-realized “computer,” the Analytical Engine, with Lovelace adding extensive notes to the English translation, including the world’s first computer algorithm.
Today she’s celebrated each year on Ada Lovelace Day and memorialized by the object-oriented programming language that bears her name, Ada.
Susan Kare, User Interface Guru
Described by some as “the Betsy Ross of the Personal Computer,” Kare is the designer who helped bring the Apple computer to life with her sophisticated typography and iconic graphic design skills. It’s said that if Jobs is credited with making technology more personable, Kare made the computer feel more like a friend — and less like a machine. She shaped many of the now-common interface elements of the Mac, like the command icon, which she found while looking through a book of symbols, and the Happy Mac and trash icons, and many of Facebook’s “digital gifts,” including the friendly rubber ducky.
Hedy Lamarr, Wireless Visionary
Largely known as a screen star of the 1920s, Lamarr was more than just a pretty face, playing a key role in the invention of spread-spectrum technology and conceptualizing the idea of sending radio signals from different frequency channels, or frequency hopping. Her work on spread-spectrum has played a part in many modern wireless technologies, like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA).
Grace Hopper, Programming Pioneer
Called the Queen of Software by some and Grandma COBOL by others, Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper helped invent some of the early English-language programming languages. She is most famously associated with the Common Business-Oriented Language (COBOL), which was based on the FLOW-MATIC language that she designed back in 1958.
Roberta Williams, Gaming Genius
Perhaps best known for her adventure game series “King’s Quest,” which went all the way to an eighth sequel, Roberta Williams was a pioneer and visionary in creating and popularizing this niche of PC games. Sierra On-Line was the name of her company (later known as Sierra Entertainment) that Williams co-founded with her husband, Ken Williams. Together, they helped shape the history of video games with their complex puzzles and detailed storylines.
Radia Perlman, Networking Maven
Referred to by many as the Mother of the Internet, Perlman’s Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) made it possible to build massive networks using Ethernet by creating a mesh network of layer-2 bridges and then disabling the links that aren’t part of that tree. She recently developed the new TRansparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL), a new standard for data center connectivity that could replace her earlier STP invention.
Marissa Mayer, Search Siren
Mayer is Google’s first female engineer (she’s actually employee number 20), having joined the search-engine superstar back in 1999, when it was still a startup. Her talents in user interface design and product vision have helped keep Google at the top as a leading web, mobile and search company. And at 36, she is the youngest member of Google’s executive operating committee, and an inspiration to women aspiring to careers in technology.
Of course, the list could (and does) go on. Let’s all take a minute to thank the “silent” influencers who have made and continue to make noise in ways that make our lives more efficient, convenient and even a little more fun.