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The First Programmers

Mental Floss has been doing a fabulous job with this series of articles on women in tech. The piece on the ‘Refrigerator ladies’ who programmed the first electronic computer is jam-packed with interesting details. For instance:

“There was no language, no operating system, no anything,” Kleiman says. “The women had to figure out what the computer was, how to interface with it, and then break down a complicated mathematical problem into very small steps that the ENIAC could then perform.” They physically hand-wired the machine, an arduous task using switches, cables, and digit trays to route data and program pulses.

“The ENIAC was a son of a bitch to program,” Jean Jennings has said.