Women’s History Month: Developing the Foundations for Modern Technology

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Last month we talked about the African American women who changed the face of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, despite adversity and oppression. Since March 1st marks the start of Women’s History Month, we are going to continue our acknowledgement of the women behind the modern technological age. We discussed the pioneers Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper in a previous blog post (which you can read here) but there is a long list of women who have come after them who have created their own legacy in STEM. If there is someone missing from this list, feel free to add them in the comments!

Susan Kare
When you think of Apple, most likely you’ll picture Steve Jobs or Steve Wozniak. Or maybe the first image that comes to mind will be the computer itself, a large and heavy object with a screen the size of a notepad. However, one of the names that you might not recognize is Susan Kare. Behind the scenes, she was in charge of developing the typography and iconic graphics for the launch of the original Apple Macintosh computer. Many of the interface elements that have become common in their products were designed by Kare, like the command symbol on their keyboard. Remember the “Happy Mac” that greeted you when you booted up your system? That was Susan Kare’s design!

Hedy Lamarr
You might not know Hedy Lamarr’s acting career, but you have definitely used her invention in your daily life now. She conceptualized the first ideas for frequency hopping (sending radio signals from different frequency channels). The basis for the idea was to help the Navy launch torpedos through remote control, and block communications from being interfered with. Despite the fact that this technology would have been way ahead of its time, the Navy was not interested and passed on the invention. However, Lamarr’s design would find its use in the 1950’s when the concept was used for secure military communications. This new use paved the way for Hedy Lamarr’s concept to become the foundation for modern Bluetooth and Wifi technology.

Roberta Williams
When videogames became popular in the 1980’s, the at-home console was a huge seller and brands like Atari took the market by storm. However there was a revolution coming and Roberta Williams was one of its leaders. It was her creation “King’s Quest” that would create the market for PC gaming. Her company Sierra On-Line would help to shape the future of video games with their more complex puzzle designs and storylines. Games that take the main character on a quest before they can compete against a final “boss” are inspired by her original design.

Radia Perlman
A member of the Internet Hall of Fame, Radia Perlman designed the spanning tree algorithm that transformed Ethernet from single-wire CSMA/CD into a protocol that can handle large information clouds. She also designed Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL), which allows Ethernet to make optimal use of bandwidth. Perlman holds over 100 patents and has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Unisex and the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Data Communication. She holds BS and MS degrees in Mathematics from MIT, and completed her PhD in Computer Science through MIT as well.

Kimberly Bryant (Black Girls Code)
After earning her degree in Electrical Engineering from Vanderbilt University, and a successful career in the bay area near San Francisco, Bryant decided to dedicate her life to helping more African American women achieve their dreams in STEM. She founded Black Girls Code in 2011 to bring classes and workshops to her community that focused on helping underrepresented girls learn computer programming, coding, website development, and robotics. Her foundation now had chapters in seven states, and across the globe in Johannesburg, South Africa, and even offers programs in Spanish! To learn more about her organization and all of their community work visit: www.blackgirlscode.com

Sister Mary Kenneth Keller
Though she was a devout nun her whole life, Sister Mary Kenneth Keller was the first woman in the United States to earn a PhD in Computer Science. She entered into the convent in 1932, and earned her BS in Mathematics and her MS in Physics from DePaul University. However, it was during her time studying at Dartmouth College in the 1960s that she developed the BASIC computer language which made it possible for anyone to write custom code. Suddenly developers didn’t need to have a mathematics or science degree to be able to code their own programs. Keller’s dissertation, written in CDC FORTRAN 63, was titled “Inductive Inference on Computer Generated Patterns.” In 1965, she became the first American woman to earn a PhD in Computer Science. She envisioned a future of computers that would help teach and stimulate cognitive development for all.

Carol Shaw
Considered the first female professional video game designer, Carol Shaw worked for the Atari company programming games for the VCS console before leaving to work for Activision. The now famous River Raid game for the Atari 2600 was her design and is considered to be one of the best examples of game design in history. However, even though she was an equal member of the team, she still faced discrimination, even from the President of Atari. During a walk through, he remarked “Oh, at last! We have a female game designer. She can do cosmetics color matching and interior decorating cartridges!” You can read more about her life in game development on the Vintage Computing Website.

Adele Goldberg
A prominent software developer, Adele Goldberg is one of the designers of the SmallTalk-80 programming language. While working at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) she would become the manager of the System Concepts Laboratory where her team would finish the SmallTalk-80 program. She served as president of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) from 1984 to 1986, and, together with Alan Kay and Dan Ingalls, received the ACM Software Systems Award in 1987. Many of the concepts she and her team developed at PARC became the basis for graphically based user interfaces, replacing the earlier command line based systems.

There are thousands more women who have made great strides in technology development who also deserve recognition on this list. This month, take the opportunity to learn more about the extraordinary women who have made history in STEM. You can tell us about them here in the comments!



The first degree conferred by Coleman University (then the Automation Institute) was to a woman, for Data Processing in 1964. It has been our mission since we were first established to ensure that all of our students have equal access to education, and resources to pursue their passion to turn their ‘Dreams Into Reality’. What could you do with a degree in Software Development, Cybersecurity, or Game Development from Coleman University?

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Women Who Coded in War Time: the Forgotten Veterans

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War is not just the physical action that takes place on the battlefield. During the First World War technology development became the best form of defense against enemy attack. In fact, war time intelligence gathering and monitoring was a field largely dominated by women, and it was their dedication to code breaking that helped win the war for the Allies in World War Two. However, many of these women have gone unrecognized by history. As part of our dedication to diversity, Coleman University wants to bring more attention to these veterans who helped end World War 2, and foster a larger dialogue about the women who have become invaluable pioneers in technology.

It is estimated that there are over 10,000 women who contributed to war time code breaking; but most of them have never been recognized for their achievements. It was a woman who was the first the learn that World War Two was over after she decoded a message sent from Japan to neutral Switzerland offering an unconditional surrender. It was also a woman who helped Alan Turing build his computing engine in Bletchley Park, Great Britain, that helped to decipher the codes being sent by the Nazis. So why were these incredible women left out of the conversation about war time efforts?

In the same way that women took over in factories and in mills to help the war effort, those who enlisted ended up taking over the jobs that men would have held in other times. Though the CIA was still in its infancy, they were in a rush to hire as many workers as possible to get ahead of the growing stack of coded intelligence that needed to be deciphered. Ironically men were hesitant to join the code breakers because it was considered menial work, and honor and prestige was believed to be earned on the battlefield. The women who would help break codes and save millions of lives left their homes under the pretense of being hired to do secretarial work for the government, and were sworn to severe secrecy at the potential cost of the safety of the country. It was this dedication to secrecy that led many of the women to avoid speaking about their experiences to anyone, including their own families. Their jobs consisted of sifting through thousands of messages, often taking weeks to decode even one.

It was these women who would be the first to learn that their loved ones were the target of an attack, or that their hometowns had been bombed, but often they were helpless to stop it. They willingly took on the burden of having to know top secret information that directly affected the war, yet they had to be as secretive about their work as the messages they were decoding. However they did get some of their own action in the war, by creating phony messages for the Germans to intercept that would affect the attack on Normandy known as D-Day. The contributions of these code breakers is almost immeasurable considering how much their work would further the development of the code breaking computers and machines that would come after the war was over. Only an extremely small number of women who were code breakers during the war stayed on to continue their careers. Many moved back to civilian life and never spoke of their involvement in the war again. As we celebrate the veterans who have fought for our nation in and out of wartime, we must also stop and think about the women who were not on the front lines but who still dedicated their lives to helping the war effort. These forgotten veterans are part of the deep history of women who have contributed to the STEM fields and whose legacy must be celebrated and must continue to be celebrated for future generations.



Coleman University values providing an equal opportunity for all who are interested to establish a career in technology. What could you do with a degree in cybersecurity, software development, or game development? Call us today at (858) 499-0202 to find out!

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There’s More to the Story Than You Think: Women in Technology

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March is Women’s History Month, a time to reflect on the contributions and movements that have come from women throughout history. Think about what you take for granted every day without thinking of where it came from or who invented it; would you immediately think a woman had created it? Take the modern medical syringe, an item that is now in every doctor’s office across the globe. The first patent for the single plunger syringe was given to a woman, Leticia Greer, in New York in the year 1899 (you can see the original patent application here). In 1966 a woman by the name of Stephanie Kwolek invented the first prototype for Kevlar, the material that would become integral in crash helmets, radial tires, and eventually bulletproof vests (learn more about her invention here). We also owe a lot of our modern inventions in computing and coding to women who were passionate about, and dedicated to improving, technology.

The first documented coding concept for a machine was invented by the Mathematician Ada Lovelace, who had become fascinated with Charles Babbage’s design for a computing machine. The Analytical Engine was conceptualized to perform long and complex mathematical equations in a short amount of time. Using the pattern designs from the Jacquard Loom, Lovelace conceptualized a set of “cards” that would have holes in them that would correspond with numbers and patterns established by the creator. These cards would be read through the holes by the machine and in turn produce a numerical answer. The notes on this card design that Lovelace published in a Scientific Memoirs journal are now considered to be the first plan for a “coding” system for a machine. The Analytical Engine could have been programmable, thus making it customize-able for various types of computing and the punch cards could then also be reused. Initially Ada Lovelace imagined that this engine would be used to create and play music, as well as do complex mathematics. Though the Analytic Engine was never constructed, the notes that Lovelace published set the ground work for the future of programming and computing. For more information on Ada Lovelace and her programming design, click here or visit The Ada Project website.

Another pioneer in computing and programming is Grace Hopper, an Admiral in the United States Navy. Have you ever “de-bugged” your computer? Well that term came from Grace Hopper herself! After removing a moth from the Mark I computer and taping it to her notebook, the term stuck and has been a part of our culture ever since. Hopper was born at the beginning of the 20th century in New York City. After completing her Bachelor’s in Mathematics, she went on the Yale to complete her Master’s and then her Ph.D. She taught for a number of years until she enlisted in the United States Navy Reserve where she was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project being researched at Harvard University. She was then later named as a Research Fellow. Her work was dedicated to the first large-scale computer named the Mark I, and would go on to help develop the Mark II and Mark III. After working with numerical code in computing, Hopper began work on the first computer compiler and computer programming language referred to as COBOL. It was her idea to start collecting programming commands for a shared library of codes in order to save time and reduce programming errors on projects. The collection of commands using binary code allowed for the computers to begin to understand basic phrases in English and then translate them into binary. She is called “Amazing Grace” for a reason! Learn more about her life and her work here, at the US Navy website.

Mathematicians have been integral in computer and science technologies and even space exploration. During the Space Race in the 1960s, Katherine Johnson paved the way for space flight and helped NASA put Astronauts into orbit, and put them on the Moon. Her story begins in West Virginia where she was born in 1918. From an early age she was gifted with incredible curiosity and determination to succeed. She moved ahead several grades when she was in middle school, and started high school at the age of 13. She graduated from West Virginia State College with honors and began a career teaching mathematics in 1937. By 1939, she was invited to become one of the first African American citizens to attend the Graduate program at the recently opened West Virginia University. Though she left the program early to marry and start a family, she still continued to teach math in local public schools. In 1952 she applied to become a computer for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ (NACA’s) Langley Laboratory. At the time this computing section was all African American; science was still segregated. After her first two weeks, she was promoted to work on the Maneuver Loads Branch of the Flight Research Division where she analyzed data from flight tests. After the successful launch of Sputnik from Russia, her work became much more in demand.  As NACA (soon to be NASA) began to frantically develop a plan to put men into space, Johnson became an integral part of the team to calculate and analyze data in order to make that happen. Her calculations were used for the Freedom 7 mission in 1961 that put a human into orbit around the Earth, which led to her development of a set of calculations and equations that would make it possible to accurately determine the landing point of a space craft. However, her most famous project was the orbital mission of John Glenn, who demanded that she do the calculations for his orbit despite the mechanical machines that had been put in place to do all of it. He trusted her mind and her calculations with his life, and would not go into space until she had confirmed that the machine’s results were accurate. She did all of the thousands of calculations by hand, using only her desktop mechanical calculating machine, which was at the time the equivalent to a basic calculator. She was also asked to work on the plans for the moon landing and her calculations helped to ensure that the Lunar Lander would synch with the Command and Service Module. After 33 years in Langley, she retired. In 2015, at the age of 97 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. You can read more about her on the NASA website.

We owe a lot to the women who have taken their passions and followed them into greatness. These three women are just the tip of the iceberg on a long list of female led technology development throughout history. The next time you turn on your laptop, or use your phone to calculate, think of these women who had to create these technologies that we freely use today. For more on these women, click on the links provided or go to computerscience.org for more information on other women who have made history and the issues that women in technology are still facing.

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Diversity Book Club

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Join us as we discuss noteworthy books that embrace Cultural Diversity.  More

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