Friday, April 08, 2011

Jean Bartik, Software Pioneer, Dies at 86

The New York Times, By Steve Lohr, April 7

Jean Jennings Bartik, one of the first computer programmers and a pioneering forerunner in a technology that came to be known as software, died on March 23 at a nursing home in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. She was 86.


Ms. Bartik was the last surviving member of the group of women who programmed the Eniac, or Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, which is credited as the first all-electronic digital computer.


When the Eniac was shown off at the University of Pennsylvania in February 1946, it generated headlines in newspapers across the country. But the attention was all on the men and the machine. The women were not even introduced at the event.

“For years, we celebrated the people who built it, not the people who programmed it,” said David Alan Grier, a technology historian at George Washington University and a senior vice president of the IEEE Computer Society.


Ms. Bartik left the computer industry in 1951 to raise her three children and returned to it in 1967. After holding a series of jobs in programming, training and technical publishing, she was laid off in 1985 as she was nearing 61 and could not find another job in the industry.

“There’s a lot of age discrimination, then and now, and I see it in my research,” said Mr. Bartik, a labor economist.

For the next 25 years Ms. Bartik was a real estate agent in New Jersey.


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