Throughout history, women have made positive contributions to every part of the world around us. To celebrate Women’s History Month, here are some of the women who helped create the internet and contributed significantly to the development and establishment of the digital world in which we currently live and work every day. From discoveries that revolutionized the way we handle crises to the creation of the first online shopping site, these women changed the way we use technology.
Ada Lovelace is credited with being one of the first female computer programmers and mathematicians. She created the first computer algorithm and predicted that computers would be capable of much more than just math.
Charles Babbage outlined his Analytical Engine in 1837, which, if completed, would have been one of the first early computers. Lovelace provided an in-depth review of the Analytical Engine, highlighting both the technology and the machine’s broader ramifications. Her notes were finally republished in 1953, but sadly her contribution for her help creating the internet would not be appreciated for decades.
During WWII, the Hollywood actress-turned-inventor Hedy Lamarr (born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Austria) collaborated on a radio navigation system for allied torpedoes with composer George Antheil. GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi communications technology were all made possible by Lamarr and Antheil. The team’s hard work helped make global communication significantly faster, more sophisticated, and much less stressful.
Betty Snyder and Betty Jean Jennings
The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC, was developed at the University of Pennsylvania in 1945 as a ballistics calculator. Its functions were carried out by a team of six female programmers who were standing inside the machine. Betty Snyder and Betty Jean Jennings, who were partners-in-code, completed a public demonstration of a ballistics trajectory. At the time, the media credited their work to a male colleague. 50 years later, their stories were finally told when they wrote their individual accounts of their experiences and contributions of when they helped create the internet.
Radia Perlman is the designer of the spanning-tree protocol (STP), which allowed two networks to unite and behave as one, joining single computers globally for the first time. Her accomplishments as a network engineer and software designer earned her the nickname “mother of the internet.” She is credited with making the internet into the massive system it is today, which links devices from all over the world and stores data in an abstract Cloud.
Although California has Silicon Valley, New York had “Silicon Alley” in the mid-1990s during the dot-com bubble, and Jaime Levy was the queen. Levy got her start in the industry in 1990, helping to invent modern-day internet content by pushing “new media” projects online in the form of floppy disk digital journals. She even produced one of the first programmed, animated press kits to accompany Billy Idol’s album Cyberpunk. Her current company focuses on consulting and teaching user experience design to today’s generation of internet developers.
Martha Lane-Fox, also known as Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho, was one of the first persons in Britain to see the potential of the internet for selling products and services. She co-founded LastMinute.com in 1998, a travel and gift website that sold goods and services online. She left her position as managing director in 2003 and has subsequently worked in business and for the UK government in a variety of high-profile jobs. In April 2016 she joined the social media world by accepting a position on the board of Twitter. Soon after, in 2020, Lane Fox was appointed to the board of directors for WeTransfer.
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