As with When Women Ruled the World, I love it when books bring to light the unsung women who were always there, making history right alongside men. Too many stories leave us out, forgetting our contributions or demoting their importance to the overall goal. We may never know all the women that history has forgotten but I appreciate books like this that remind readers that women were there, creating and contributing too, even in eras that we assume women were only housewives in. Okay, those may be my favorite.
That said, this book begins with Ada Lovelace and the circumstances under which she wrote the first computer code well before the first computer was even created, when there was just the idea of a mechanical computer that nowadays sounds like it belongs in a steampunk novel. Ada Lovelace’s story is one of the few that I was already familiar with, as with Admiral Grace Hopper. I knew about her efforts to write COBOL, but I had no idea the cooperative effort it was among so many other women and programmers.
There are many more women mentioned in this book, their work inching along toward the internet we know and love today. I actually hadn’t considered how many women were on these projects over the years, though by now I really should have, nor how many projects eventually combined to create the internet. There was a lot of new information for me about the internet itself, but not everything. You’d think I never studied electronics or anything….
The writing was great, Evans elaborates on the women involved and where they came from and how they came to be qualified to work in these programs along with the things they figured out along the way. While the hardware is undoubtedly an important part of the making of the internet, we’ve come a long way from discounting the necessity of good programmers or having someone with the customers who understood the needs of an operator. Today, we throw around terms like “user-friendly” and “intuitive” that it’s hard to think of a time when people were so superior about their computing or software skills that they would make things hard on others or not even realize that not everyone can do what they do.