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Comment Women Have Been Here Since the 1st Vacuum Tube (Score 3, Interesting) 191

I loved this story from the era of Byte. Most of my penile-brethern in the industry are not old enough to be connected to the earlier eras of computing where women were far more involved in the process. Not just the hardware, but also in software.

It is Grace Hopper who was among the early pioneers to crystallize the idea of a high level computer language (COBOL), and unlike a lot of other languages that have come and gone, COBOL is still around and much of Western civilization still depends on it, hidden away in the logic of CICS transactions. The role of women in computing was actually a lot more involved in its early years than now. To sell very expensive mainframes to corporations, ad men had to sell the idea that the machines were easy to use and took advantage of the "WOMEN R DUMB" stereotype by involving women nearly everywhere around the system from the operator console down to the armies of women driving IBM 029 card punch machines to enter lines of text in "files" of punched cards. System brochures nearly always featured women at the terminals, loading the tapes and pouring through printouts. That legacy showed itself again when the Y2K crisis hit and there was a sudden desperate urge to find COBOL programmers. I remember departments filled with nothing but old-hat ladies who still remembered how to set up their JCL and editing their "job cards" [IBMspeak for 'lines of text'] to test date-fixed code. Seated nearby was a team C++ where if there were 100 of them, perhaps only 1 would be female. The C++ males, all in their 20s, were working on cheap PCs. The grandma coalition next door had control over a Sysplex beast with a $2 million dollar lease in a center with its own air conditioning plant.

When CompSci took off, computing was a new, unknown science to laypeople and it was sexy and exciting, much like biochem is now to girls who are being woo'd at to pursue a major in STEM. Women filled jobs as cryptoanalysts and manually programmed sorting machines with jumper plugs. Women dominated the role of the Systems Analyst, a job type that's still with us and is a role that many women still fill. In many fields of business, women still dominate user communities as women still outnumber men as users of tech.

The problem that exists right now is that there's not a lot of women who are writing instructions to feed into a compiler. I'm in a skyscraper with over 30 floors and I think I can count on one hand the number of women right now who are churning out code and with two hands the number who are debugging and syncing repos to GitHub.

Back when society was far more unkind to women, women had far more influence in tech than they do now. Now that there are legal protections, women have been enticed by recruiters into other sciences (there's a lot more women studying Chemistry than CompSci). The problem today isn't with some perceived gender barrier, or a glass ceiling. The problem is that male programmers haven't had any inclination to walk up to women that they know, show them what they do, how creative programming and system architecture can be, and that it's potentially lucrative and exciting.

STEM conferences only do so much, and nobody gives a rat's ass what celebs and pandering politicians have to say. It's really the folks who actually code day-in day-out who could help get more women back into a field they used to be in with far more gusto.


Submission + - Finally, Apple TV's carpet matches the drapes (

thetechblock writes: "Cupertino’s revamped Apple TV was all but drowned out at last week’s media event, not because it was underwhelming, but because it had the misfortune of sharing the stage with the event’s main act: the iPad 3. But as impressive as the new Apple TV is — and with an A5 chip that can handle 1080p streams, it’s certainly impressive — I’m more interested in the iOS-like interface Apple rolled out along with it."

Submission + - Microsoft shows off universal translator (

MrSeb writes: "Microsoft Research has shown off software that translates your spoken words into another language while preserving the accent, timbre, and intonation of your actual voice. In a demo of the prototype software, Rick Rashid, Microsoft’s chief research officer, said a long sentence in English, and then had it translated into Spanish, Italian, and Mandarin. You can definitely hear an edge of digitized “Microsoft Sam,” but overall it’s remarkable how the three translations still sound just like Rashid. The translation requires an hour of training, but after that there's no reason why it couldn't be run in real time on a smartphone, or near-real-time with a cloud backend. Imagine this tech in a two-way setup. You speak into your smartphone, and it comes out in their language. Then, the person you’re talking to speaks into your smartphone and their voice comes out in your language."

Submission + - SXSW: Marketing agency uses homeless as Wi-Fi hotspots (

An anonymous reader writes: Marketing agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) has launched a controversial charity scheme at this year's South by Southwest festival, in which homeless people are being used to provide Wi-Fi hotspots.
The project, Homeless Hotspots, seeks to address people's need for a high-speed data connection at the festival in Austin, Texas, by issuing the homeless with T-shirts that say "I am a 4G hotspot".

Comment Re:As a Philadelphian who rides SEPTA Daily... (Score 3, Interesting) 805

Considering how many people in Philadelphia have criminal convictions, I don't feel like playing therapist to baby-momma-drama. It's easier to just shut them down. If you want your bars back, then step off the subway and talk on the platform and get on the next train.

Comment As a Philadelphian who rides SEPTA Daily... (Score 3, Interesting) 805

I can tell you with what joy it is to live in a city where listening to B-grade hip hop music on tinny cell phone speakers is the norm. That you can't stop, but when I have to be subjected to a very lengthy screaming match between baby-momma and her baby-daddy, with a push of a button I can cut that nonsense out. If you want to do that nonsense, then get off the train at the next stop and have your bitch fest there.

I can't do much about the panhandlers that pass through the trains hocking bootleg DVDs, scented oils or begging for quarters, but I CAN do something about the chaff of society who can't keep their Jerry Springer drama to themselves, and so I shut them down with a jammer. If an emergency crops up, I turn the device off.


Submission + - A brief history of the TV remote control. (

harrymcc writes: "TV remote controls certainly aren't the most high-profile of gizmos, but they're among the longest-lived and most pervasive. And they've evolved a lot in their sixty years. I've compiled a quick guide to notable models, from 1950s's Lazy Bones to the first infrared model to the first universal remote (designed by Woz!) to Peel, a new remote that's actually an iPhone app."

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