Books and shows about the history of information technology have usually focused on great inventors and technical breakthroughs, from Charles Babbage and Alan Turing to Steve Jobs and the World Wide Web. Work by non-geniuses, particularly operations work, has been written out of the popular history of innovation, but without it no computer would be useful. Information historian Thomas Haigh is writing it back in.
This talk will focus on ENIAC, the first general purpose electronic computer, based on research for his book ENIAC in Action: Making and Remaking the Modern Computer, recently published by MIT Press. Haigh’s book explains that the six women now celebrated as the “first computer programmers” were actually hired as computer operators and worked hands-on with the machine around the clock. Other women, who actually built ENIAC, have been forgotten entirely, as have the contributions of other people working on vital aspects of the project, from procuring the right kind of wire to saving ENIAC from flood water. Haigh’s concluding comments relate this historical material to the human labor and physical infrastructure today vanishing from public view into the “cloud.”
Join us as Thomas Haigh discusses his new book and the men and, in particular, women involved in the creation of design of the ENIAC.
We are very pleased that Books, Inc. will be selling copies of ENIAC in Action before and after the program.
Computer History Museum
1401 N. Shoreline Boulevard
Mountain View, CA, 94043