September 27, 2017
One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars during 2017, on the subject of our favorite squads.
In 1945 ‘computer’ meant ‘woman with at least a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics, who solves differential calculus equations by hand as fast as possible.’ In 1945 six computers — Jean Jennings, Marlyn Wescoff, Ruth Lichterman, Betty Snyder, Frances Bilas, and Kay McNulty — were randomly selected to program a top-secret machine that could solve the same equations in 1/2400th the time of a human. This machine, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), was the first all-electric computer. These women from disparate backgrounds were dropped together to work as a team, given the basest of mechanical and wiring diagrams and instructed to, in the words of Kay McNulty, ‘figure out how it works and then figure out how to program it.’ Few remember their names. For years historians looking at photographs of the ENIAC labs mistook them for ‘refrigerator women’ or models put in pictures with the technology to add a human element. They were selected at random, and through purest teamwork and gumption, they created the basis for our modern technical age. They stitched together an electric brain when programming meant climbing wholly into the belly of an electromechanical beast and rearranging the wires, hoping not to blow a fuse.
They were a team by circumstance, not by choice. It could have been any six women from the computer staff put together in that lab. They are a reminder to learn to work with the team you have, the epitome of goals taking precedence over individual glory, a softer and more collaborative vision of the history of computing. They were almost forgotten. They are a reminder that things are worth doing no matter who remembers you are doing them; a reminder that the story told is never really the whole story. Take a closer look at those nameless people in the photograph, working behind the person whose name appears in the caption.
#SQUADGOALS: Annie Nocenti on THE WILD BUNCH | Alice Boone on PRETTY LITTLE LIARS | Gordon Dahlquist on BOWIE’S BAND | Rob Wringham on THE HOME GUARD | Jennifer Krasinski on WATERSHIP DOWN RABBITS | Annalee Newitz on ROBIN HOOD’S MERRY PALS | Adrienne Crew on THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | Mark Kingwell on THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | Adam McGovern on KAMANDI’S FAMILY | John Overholt on THE CLUB | Greg Rowland on THE VULTURE SQUADRON | Sara Ryan on BETSY, TACY & TIB | Chelsey Johnson on VI ÄR BÄST! | Brian Berger on THE JOHN FORD STOCK COMPANY | Sherri Wasserman on THE WARRIORS | Jessamyn West on FAREYNIKTE PARTIZANER ORGANIZATSYE | Josh Glenn on DADA | Matthew De Abaitua on THE TIME | Mandy Keifetz on THE FOUNDING FATHERS | William Nericcio on ZOOT SUIT PACHUCOS | Deb Chachra on FIREFLY CREW | Matthew Battles on THE ANIMAL FAMILY | Ingrid Schorr on THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS | Joe Alterio on THE USUAL GANG OF IDIOTS | Dan Reines on THE BREAKFAST CLUB | Rob Walker on LES TROIS INSÉPARABLES | Devin McKinney on 1975 RED SOX | Steph Burt on DAMAGE CONTROL | Elina Shatkin on THE HOLOGRAMS | Chris Spurgeon on THE ALKALI METALS | Carl Wilson on NEW YORK SCHOOL POETS | Barbara Bogaev on THE MOD SQUAD | Franklin Bruno on THE AACM | Judith Zissman on THE FUTURIANS | Mimi Zeiger on ARCHIGRAM | Jacob Mikanowski on THE RATBASTARDS | Lynn Peril on THE DALY SISTERS | Anindita Basu Sempere on MEG MURRY’S FAMILY | Libi Rose on THE ENIAC TEAM | Gary Panter on THE TRIBE OF HIPPIES | Peter Doyle on CORNEL WILDE BOYS | Ken Layne on THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG | Molly Wright Steenson on BAUHAUS | Katie Hennessey on BEAT POETS | Mimi Lipson on THE RUNAWAYS | Jordan Ellenberg on BOURBAKI | Michael Campochiaro on THE SUICIDE SQUAD | Deborah Wassertzug on THE BLOODHOUND GANG | Colin Dickey on ACÉPHALE | Douglas Wolk on SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY | David Smay on THE MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF THE OINGO BOINGO | Karinne Keithley Syers on BLACKLIPS PERFORMANCE CULT.
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