Gallery Marks Women in Computing History


The United Kingdom’s National Museum of Computing has unveiled a gallery marking the undersung achievements of women in computing.

The gallery’s creation was a response to the fact that only one in ten students who visit the museum as part of its computer learning program are female.

Although the gallery is currently a standalone display, the hope is that it will help uncover more evidence, memories and historical documents about women in computing which can then be integrated into the rest of the museum.

The gallery combines touchscreens that display multimedia with physical artefacts. These include the first programming book for ARC, the first assembly language, which was written by Kathleen Booth. There’s also a scrapbook from Dame Stephanie Shirley, who created software company FI Group in the 1960s with the specific aim of recruiting female programmers.

Opening the gallery, Shirley said ” Britain’s economy demands that women are not just consumers, but rather creators of new technologies and applications… [the gallery] shows the heroines of computing as historic facts to inspire the upcoming generation.”

Other guests at the opening included Mary Coombs, the first female commercial programmer, and Sophie Wilson, who co-designed both the BBC Microcomputer and the ARM processor that is at the heart of an estimated 6 billion devices manufactured each year.

The musuem has appealed for anyone with more information on women in computing history to e-mail; the set-up of the touchscreen displays means new information and media can be added to the gallery instantly.

The gallery itself has been part-funded by Google UK. The museum accepts donations and a private benefactor has pledged to match £1 million (approx. US $1.6 million) of donations.