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Women | Chasing Men Who Stare at Arrays

Archive for the 'Women' Category

Kx Princess Report #2

Where were we? Oh, yes, my commitment to Simon to find the K-Club in Straffan just outside of Dublin. And to arrive with something to show.

I flew in a day early to relax and see the city. This was enough time to learn that the Irish can give uncomfortably vague directions that miraculously work. For example, “It’s across the road,” did in fact turn out to be true.

The event was a Kx International Users conference. The tricky business about these conferences is that they are TOP SECRET. In fact, one of my new found friends revealed to me all kinds of interesting details about his personal life and when I asked if they were a secret, because… er… I am making a documentary… He said, no. BUT! What he had just explained to me about his work, now THAT, was absolutely secret.

Don’t get too excited. The only people who would understand any possible trade secret I may have learned, are the ultra-geek of geeks. I don’t expect to be kidnapped and held for ransom anytime soon. So, no kiss and tell. That’s how it goes. I can say that the spirit of innovation which began in the 1950’s with Dr Iverson at Harvard carries on. And simple is still the more difficult and best route. Even after all these years.

It was a real treat to finally meet Arthur Whitney. I expect that if I say too much right now, he’ll never talk to me again, which would be tragic. BUT! It was great. And Janet Lustgarten is the sharpest executive I’ve ever met. She’s an awesome role model for anyone, and is especially inspiring for women in tech. It was a pleasure to spend time with these folks.

Next time I’ll tell you about Carlos, Oleg, Peter, Pierre and Tisean. They share first prize for inspiring super ultra-core fans. What I mean by that, is when I ask myself, Why the heck am I doing this anyway? I just need to see their smiling faces and my batteries re-charge.

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J, July and Solidarity

I’d like to start today by drawing your attention to what promises to be the APL Array Language Family event of the year – The J Community/Conference 2012 right here in Toronto, this July 23 & 24, 2012.  If you want to rub shoulders with Array Language Rock Stars, this is the conference to attend.

J conference July 23/24, 2012

Eric Iverson 2012

J Conference planning w/ Eric Iverson 2012

Further, 2012 is a special year because it is the 5oth anniversary of the publication of Dr. Kenneth Iverson’s seminal text A Programming Language which ultimately lead to his Turing Award, the “nobel prize of Computing”.  In honour of this important milestone, Eric Iverson and Liz Giddens, the J conference organizer, have asked that I let you know that you are specially invited attend the The J Conference Banquet to celebrate the larger legacy of Ken and his colleagues, even if you choose not to attend the conference. (Note: the early bird ticket price is up now, so I encourage you to get your ticket, while there are still tickets available).

What’s else is happening?

2011 dished out a little more than I could handle but that’s to be expected.  This is, however, why we’ve been so quiet this year on the blog. We’re in the back room, pushing things along quietly…  For example, the interview with Dr. Fred Brooks has been transcribed and the transcriptions are now under review by our subject matter experts.

I also applied for a fellowship grant from the ACM. I didn’t win the fellowship, however the application process connected me with the ACM History group.  And in spite of my extremely awkward and painful debut where I made the biggest public email faux pas I have ever made, the group is warm and welcoming.   Nathan Ensmenger, as one example, is generously sharing some of his articles with me. He has developed an interesting analysis of how computer programming transformed into a male dominated profession, when it didn’t start out this way.   I am writing about this documentary in the context of my own programming career for the ACM-W newsletter which is why I am looking at the research on gender in computing.

As a side note, working on this article is making me miss programming, which is a bit of a surprise.

Nathan Ensmenger also has an interest in film and contributed to Tops Secret Rosies, a documentary film about the women who did the ballistics calculations during WWI and were recruited to program the ENIAC – the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer  in the 1940’2.  This experience gives him a special appreciation of the challenge set before us here with this documentary – how does one visualize an abstract construct like a computer programming language? 

This is just a taste of what’s going on behind the scenes.  Keep the faith. I hope to see everyone in July, if not sooner.

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A somber reminder from Canada

December 6th is a somber anniversary for Canadian women in tech, especially those of us in my generation who remember 1989.

A gunman confronts 60 engineering students during their class at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989. He separates the men from the women and tells the men to leave the classroom, threatening them with his .22-calibre rifle. The enraged man begins a shooting rampage that spreads to three floors and several classrooms, jumping from desk to desk while female students cower below. He roams the corridors yelling, “I want women.”

CBC Digital Archive

Chilling words. And this happened in Canada. I’ll say this again, because if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.

This happened in Canada.
Women in Tech

The lesson is that tragic things happen when people are singled out and demonized based on some arbitrary attribute. And I mean this to include all levels of society; at home, at work, in the judicial system, in the movie theaters.

Do me a favour and take a quiet moment to think about what I’m saying to you today.

Thank you.

And forever, I appreciate all your support in this crazy documentary adventure.

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