This post will look at the work of Jean Bartik, Betty Holberton, Marlyn Meltzer, Frances Spence and Ruth Teitelbaum on the ENIAC computer,
Betty Jean Jennings is on the left of this picture
Born Betty Jean Jennings in Gentry County, Missouri in 1924 and attended Northwest Missouri State Teachers College, majoring in mathematics. In 1945, she was hired by the University of Pennsylvania to work for Army Ordnance at Aberdeen Proving Ground. When the ENIAC computer was developed for the purpose of calculating ballistics trajectories, she was selected to be one of its first programmers. Bartik later became part of a group charged with converting the ENIAC into a stored program computer; in the original implementation,
She went on to work on the BINAC and UNIVAC I computers. Jean Jennings Bartik was a friend for over 60 years with Kay McNulty Mauchly Antonelli. John Mauchly walked Jean down the aisle when she married and it was at Jean’s wedding reception that John had the courage to approach Kay about dating. Jean Jennings Bartik has a museum in her name at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri. The museum boasts rare one-of-a-kind ENIAC, BINAC and UNIVAC exhibits, including an original salesman pot-metal model of the UNIVAC I.
Born Frances Elizabeth Snyder in Philadelphia in 1917. She studied at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in English and journalism, although she had excelled in mathematics during high school. She was hired by the Moore School of Engineering during World War II to compute ballistics trajectories and was selected as one of the programmers for the ENIAC computer which was designed to perform these calculations electronically.
She was the inventor of the mnemonic instruction set (called C-10) for the BINAC, which Grace Hopper [who is also featured in this section] described as “the basis for all subsequent programming languages.” It has been said that in creating this, she started the movement away from switch assemblies and towards keyboards as the primary input device for computers.
She also wrote the first generative programming system (SORT/MERGE), and the first statistical analysis package (for the 1950 US Census). She participated in the early standards development for the COBOL and Fortran programming languages.
She was the person who suggested grey as the colour for UNIVAC computers (rather than black as it was at the time).
In 1997 she received the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award, which is the highest honour possible for a computer programmer and she was also inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame, along with the other original ENIAC programmers
Born Marlyn Wescoff graduated from Temple University in 1942. She was hired by the Moore School of Engineering later that year to perform weather calculations, mainly because she knew how to operate an adding machine.
In 1943, she was hired to perform calculations for ballistics trajectories and in 1945, she was selected to become one of the first group of ENIAC programmers. She resigned from the team in 1947 to get married before ENIAC was relocated to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.
Born Frances Bilas in Philadelphia in 1922, Fran attended Temple University but then was awarded a scholarship to Chestnut Hill College. She majored in mathematics with a minor in physics and graduated in 1942. While there, she met Kathleen McNulty, who also later became an ENIAC programmer. McNulty and Spence were hired by the Moore School of Engineering to compute ballistics trajectories. Both were selected to become part of the first group of programmers for the ENIAC, which was designed to perform the same calculations. In 1947, she married Homer Spence, an Army electrical engineer from the Aberdeen Proving Grounds who had been assigned to the ENIAC project and later became head of the Computer Research Branch. Shortly after that, she resigned to raise a family.
(née Lichterman) (1924 – 1986, Dallas)
Teitelbaum graduated from Hunter College with a B.Sc. in Mathematics. She was hired by the Moore School of Engineering to compute ballistics trajectories and was later selected as one of the first programmers for the ENIAC.. She travelled with ENIAC to the Ballistics Research Laboratory at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds where she remained for two more years to train the next group of ENIAC programmers. She died in Dallas, Texas in 1986.
Sign outside University of Pennsylvania
This generation of ‘computers’ and their hard work and dedication proved the ideas and was the signal that gave rise to the birth of the Information Age. A testament to this significant achievement is proudly displayed outside of the University of Pennsylvania. But, without the work of the dedicated programmers – Kay McNulty, Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, Fran Bilas and Ruth Lichterman – this step into the future of information technology would not have happened
In 1969 our next technological, historical pioneer won the first “man of the year” award from the Data Processing
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper
Management Association and in 1973, she became the first person from the United States and the first woman of any nationality to be made a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society – Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper.