In early 1945, the United States military was recruiting female mathematicians for a top-secret project to help win World War II. Betty Jean Jennings (Bartik), a twenty-year-old college graduate from rural northwest Missouri, wanted an adventure, so she applied for the job. She was hired as a “computer” to calculate artillery shell trajectories for Aberdeen Proving Ground, and later joined a team of women who programmed the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), the first successful general-purpose programmable electronic computer. In 1947, Bartik headed up a team that modified the ENIAC into the first stored-program electronic computer.
So rarely do we get to hear stories of challenge and invention from the pioneers themselves. In Pioneer Programmer, Jean Jennings Bartik shares the opportunities of World War II and the technology challenges of ENIAC, BINAC and UNIVAC. She takes us back to the times that changed our world, and introduces us to the programmers, engineers, and visionaries who made it happen. Jean was a great light, and to the future she entrusted her wonderful story.
—Kathy Kleiman, founder,
ENIAC Programmers Project
A firsthand account of the history of American computing from one of the last human computers—who was also one of the first computer programmers—this book combines personal reflections and historical analysis in a lively narrative. Bartik gives readers a sense of the individuals and institutions who shaped computing in the twentieth century as well as her perspective on important issues such as continuing gender disparities in the field. The author’s personality sparkles throughout, and many photographs complement the text. This is a truly unique study and I highly recommend it.
—Jennifer S. Light, Northwestern University
This book is unique; it is not another secondhand retelling of the invention of the computer. It is not like the many technical histories that are part scholarly overview and part narrative designed to elevate some particular inventor to superhuman status. This is Jean’s story.
—Bill Mauchly, son of ENIAC
co-inventor John Mauchly