The largest part of the ENIAC team by far were the people that were actually building the thing. And it’s interesting they’ve been forgotten by history, because although their job titles were wiremen, technicians, and assemblers, being a business historian I looked up the accounting records, and sometimes they spell out the payroll. You suddenly see all these women’s names like Ruth, Jane, Alice, Dorothy, Caroline, Eleanor showing up.
Then we were told we had to learn how to operate this machine. Well, how do you go about that? And somebody from Moore School gave us a whole stack of blueprints, and these were the wiring diagrams for all the panels. And they said, “Here, you can figure out how the machine works and then figure out how to program it.”
I applied and went over and they just talked to us a little bit. We never saw the machine or anything. So then they called us in and Herman Goldstine, who was the Army officer liaison coming in from Aberdeen, interviewed me. So Herman said to me, “What do you think of electricity?”
So I said, “Well, I had a physics course and I knew that E=IR.”
So he said, “No, I don’t mean that. I don’t care about that. Are you afraid of it?”
What I believe is that computer science emerged as a science, as a profession, with all the requirements on what professional standards and requirements of what one needed to know to get a job in the field. […] In that period, then, credentials were established, and by the early 70s things had really changed for women, at least in my environment, and most other groups that I’ve talked to about this theory absolutely agree that that was where there was a significant shift.
I wanted to give you a little bit of perspective on Otlet’s broader vision, which I think is in a way even more interesting as a reference point for thinking about some of the changes we’re seeing today as our lives are increasingly reshaped by technology and networks. What Otlet offers is a different way into that space, and a different way of thinking about what a networked world could look like.