Who’s your hero?

Who do you look up to?  Who do you really admire?

One that I’m fond of is Ada Lovelace – in a world full of men, Ada Lovelace became what is normally recognised as the world’s first computer programmer.  She worked with Charles Babbage, who developed the world’s first mechanical computer, the analytical engine, in 1842.  Ada was a mathematician and by all accounts she loved to think.  I don’t know how those who knew her reacted to her, but in a world dominated by men she must have been a formidable figure.

Another woman I admire is Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.  She was another computer programmer, this time after the second world war, when she was instrumental in the development of computers and computer languages.  When you talk of computers being debugged – Grace was the person who first coined the phrase, after discovering  a moth stuck in the relays.

In a world still dominated by men, these two stand out as exceptional females, but why are there so few women in the computing world?

There are other women in top spots, of course, but my suspicion is that women tend to get on with things quietly while men are busy crowing about what they can do.  Men can have more of a tendency towards the obsessive, logical mindset that enables them to excel in the field.  Or maybe men are those who had the time to play with these systems when they first came out, while women were busy running the house, and now they are busy keeping the area as a boys’ club, fighting to keep the place to themselves and exclude women.

I don’t know what the answer is, whether it’s any of the above, all of the above or other reasons.  All I know is that I love trying to figure things out, and I enjoy the challenge that computers provide.  And I feel sad when people suggest that they don’t need to try to understand, or even care to understand.  I feel that it’s become fashionable to be ignorant, and to wish to remain that way.  Famous people crow about how they’re useless at maths, and it’s acceptable to be poorly educated.  “I don’t need it” is the cry, instead of “I want it.”  And meanwhile the world around us becomes more and more complex and fewer and fewer people understand it or can be bothered to even try.


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