A very special woman in my technology history

With all of the talk about women in computer programming, I wanted to talk about a very important woman in my computer programming history, my mother.

Before I start, I first have to say that my mother never saw an activity as being for one specific gender, hence, this is why I was in Figure Skating and Downhill Racing as a child.

While working at Eaton’s as a purchasing agent for the Eastern Canada stores (1975), my mother was also attending McGill University completing a commerce degree. During this time she was introduced to computers and computer programming by using punch cards to code cobol and fortran. My mother is the first to admit she wasn’t good at typing and considering there was no backspace on the typewriters she burned through a lot of cards.

KeypunchShe used to tell me stories of having to wait 40 minutes to find out she forgot a single character. She eventually learned that the Engineering faculty had gotten a deckwriter that would allow her to not only code, but also amazingly run her code without waiting to find out if she missed something. She also recounted when the school brought in their first personal computer, something that at the time was both rare and extremely expensive.

My mother eventually started keeping the books for her father’s Esso service station, by the books I mean the stacks and stacks of paper and inventory cards. She somehow convinced the bank to give them a loan in order to buy a PC so she could computerize their accounting and inventory system, something that must have sounded right out of science fiction for a bank in 1979. Not only was she able to computerize the books, saving the garage, but it propelled my Grandparents to having a very successful business.

Eventually my mother started working foribm5155
the Canadian federal government as an
auditor, in what at the time was the department of customs. Her knowledge of computers and programming quickly became an asset and she was able to get a portable computer so she could build auditing programs while on the road performing audits.

At this point, she had also started assembling her own personal computer and this is where I come in. I was fortunate and privileged to be brought up in a household with a PC as a child. I would play PC games, and when I was old enough, would load up dBase2 and play around.

If it had not been for my mother, her introduction to computer science while in school, and her passion for computers and programming, I may have never become a computer programmer myself.

As such I’m more then happy to make a donation to the Ada initiative especially with the matching donation challenge that’s currently happening.

Update

Since I initially posted this, sadly the Ada initiative has shut down, they have a nice list of ways to continue supporting women in open technology and culture.

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