The ENIAC Programmers Project records the stories of the six original ENIAC programmers, seeks recognition for their accomplishments and has produced The Computersdocumentary in conjunction with Google founders and leaders to tell their dramatic story.
Discovered by Kathy Kleiman, a young programmer in the mid-1980s, “the ENIAC programmers inspired me to stay in computing at a time when there were few women in my programming classes and every signal was telling me that computing was not a field for women,” she remembers.
The ENIAC programmers’ story was fascinating, but lost for more than 50 years. Kathy devoted years to ground-breaking research in the University of Pennsylvania Archives and Library of Congress, and recorded extensive broadcast-quality oral histories with four of the original six ENIAC programmers in the late 1990s with senior PBS Producer David Roland. Kathy applied for awards on the behalf of the ENIAC Programmers and joined them at the Computer History Museum, IEEE Computer Society, Women in Technology International and Women in Computing to celebrate their long-delayed recognition!
In 2013, Kathy teamed up with award-winning documentary producers Jon Palfreman and Kate McMahon of the Palfreman Film Group to tell this incredible story in the stunning documentary short, The Computers. “The Computers documentary is designed to fit into every classroom and every computing club. ENIAC Programming Pioneers Betty Snyder Holberton, Jean Jennings Bartik, Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli and Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer tell their story—of how they programmed the first all-electronic, programmable computer, ENIAC, without any programming languages, tools or manuals! They were amazing, brilliant, insightful, funny and riveting, and absolutely committed to making programming easier for the rest of us. They are Programming Pioneers to celebrate!” shares Kathy.
“Not only did they program the ENIAC, the first all-electronic, digital computer during WWII without manuals or programming languages, but they dedicated years after the war to making programming easier and more accessible for all of us who followed”, she adds.
The ENIAC Programmers story changes forever how we look at technology and computer history. It inspires young women, and young men, to believe that computing careers lie within their reach.
“[Programmers] like to think we spend most of our time power typing. “Yeah, I’m being productive, I’m writing programs!” But we don’t. We spend most of our time looking into the abyss, saying “My God, what have I done? How am I ever going to make this work?” Once we figure it out, we forget that we did all of that … A normal person, once they’ve looked into the abyss, would say I’m done, this is stupid, I’m going to go do something else. But not us, because there’s something really wrong with us.”
Google Is Putting $50 Million Toward Getting Girls to Code
“Made With Code is a new Google initiative to motivate future female programmers. Only 18% of computer science degrees are earned by women, and Google is spending $50 million over the next three years to change those numbers.”
Programmers Betty Jean Jennings (left) and Fran Bilas (right) operate the main control panel of the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC) at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, c.1945-47. ENIAC was the first electronic general-purpose computer.