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Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet (2018)

by Claire L. Evans

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2481686,884 (3.91)7
"The history of technology you probably know is one of men and machines, garages and riches, alpha nerds and brogrammers. But the little-known fact is that female visionaries have always been at the vanguard of technology and innovation--they've just been erased from the story. Until now. Women are not ancillary to the history of technology; they turn up at the very beginning of every important wave. But they've often been hidden in plain sight, their inventions and contributions touching our lives in ways we don't even realize. VICE reporter and YACHT lead singer Claire L. Evans finally gives these unsung female heroes their due with her insightful social history of the Broad Band, the women who made the internet what it is today. Learn from Ada Lovelace, the tortured, imaginative daughter of Lord Byron, who wove numbers into the first program for a mechanical computer in 1842. Seek inspiration from Grace Hopper, the tenacious mathematician who democratized computing by leading the charge for machine-independent programming languages after World War II. Meet Elizabeth "Jake" Feinler, the one-woman Google who kept the earliest version of the Internet online, and Stacy Horn, who ran one of the first-ever social networks on a shoestring out of her New York City apartment in the 1980s. Evans shows us how these women built and colored the technologies we can't imagine life without. Join the ranks of the pioneers who defied social convention and the longest odds to become database poets, information-wranglers, hypertext dreamers, and glass ceiling-shattering dot com-era entrepreneurs. This inspiring call to action is a revelation: women have embraced technology from the start. It shines a light on the bright minds whom history forgot, and shows us how they will continue to shape our world in ways we can no longer ignore. Welcome to the Broad Band. You're next"--… (more)
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  revirier | Dec 13, 2021 |
The history of computers has always thought to be full of men doing amazing things. This book shows that plenty of women were involved, from the beginning.

Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper make appearances in this book, along with the "ENIAC Six." They were six women who did the actual "programming" of ENIAC, housed at the University of Pennsylvania, in the mid-1940s. It involved actually moving, and reconnecting, sections of the room-sized computer for each new computation. During the war, a computer was a woman who sat at a table and computed ballistics trajectories by hand. There was no ENIAC manual to consult, so they got very good at knowing how it worked. They also got none of the public credit. After the war, the women, plus Hopper, moved to the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Company, the world's first big computer company. After a few years of being very busy, financial problems forced the company to sell itself to another company. Remington-Rand made business machines and didn't know what to do with computers (or these free-thinking women). Things did not end well for the women.

In 1980s New York City, Stacy Horn loved connecting to the WELL, the famous West Coast BBS (bulletin board system). But the long-distance phone bills were getting out of hand. So she started ECHO, one of the first social networks, out of her apartment.

Girls like playing computer games just as much as boys (perhaps with less emphasis on death and explosions). Some game manufacturers noticed, and tried to take advantage of this untapped market.

This is an excellent book. It expertly punches holes in the all-male mythology of Silicon Valley. For anyone interested in how the future is really made, start here. ( )
  plappen | Dec 5, 2021 |
This approachable account does just what it set outs to do: provide an account of the internet's development through the stories of women who played pivotal roles. I'd encountered some of these women before (Ada Lovelace seems to be having a moment), but others I hadn't. While some of the women featured may be unknown, the story should be familiar to those who read about the history of technology. The book and the information are good, but I will admit I enjoyed Walter Issacson's The Innovators more, which is a more comprehensive history of computers. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Dec 4, 2021 |
I found the first half of the book more compelling than the second half - but that may be me, as I may not really appreciate the 1990s and their ways of trying to shape what we now know as the WWW. But if you are at all interested in the history of the internet, this should be on your list.
(and, I am proud to say, learning html in 1998, when I did it, was almost cutting edge...) ( )
  WiebkeK | Jan 21, 2021 |
A fascinating account of women programmers, designers, pioneers in ways that you might not imagine. The early days of the internet were of most interest to me, before commercialization took over, before social media turned us into the products sold to advertisers. As the author describes it: "this sprawl, this refractory, intractable explosion of information, connections, and people". Other than the first two chapters which focus on Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper, none of these women are household names but that in no way lessens their achievements and accomplishments. A fast read and one does not need to be a "techie" to understand the book. ( )
  AnaraGuard | Nov 1, 2020 |
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"The history of technology you probably know is one of men and machines, garages and riches, alpha nerds and brogrammers. But the little-known fact is that female visionaries have always been at the vanguard of technology and innovation--they've just been erased from the story. Until now. Women are not ancillary to the history of technology; they turn up at the very beginning of every important wave. But they've often been hidden in plain sight, their inventions and contributions touching our lives in ways we don't even realize. VICE reporter and YACHT lead singer Claire L. Evans finally gives these unsung female heroes their due with her insightful social history of the Broad Band, the women who made the internet what it is today. Learn from Ada Lovelace, the tortured, imaginative daughter of Lord Byron, who wove numbers into the first program for a mechanical computer in 1842. Seek inspiration from Grace Hopper, the tenacious mathematician who democratized computing by leading the charge for machine-independent programming languages after World War II. Meet Elizabeth "Jake" Feinler, the one-woman Google who kept the earliest version of the Internet online, and Stacy Horn, who ran one of the first-ever social networks on a shoestring out of her New York City apartment in the 1980s. Evans shows us how these women built and colored the technologies we can't imagine life without. Join the ranks of the pioneers who defied social convention and the longest odds to become database poets, information-wranglers, hypertext dreamers, and glass ceiling-shattering dot com-era entrepreneurs. This inspiring call to action is a revelation: women have embraced technology from the start. It shines a light on the bright minds whom history forgot, and shows us how they will continue to shape our world in ways we can no longer ignore. Welcome to the Broad Band. You're next"--

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