Think technology, innovation, pioneering and the first names that normally come to mind are those of men; Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brinn. While their contributions are undeniable and prolific, there are other names worthy of being celebrated too.
What about the many women who drove technological innovation in the 19th and 20th centuries and continue to do so in the 21st century? These inventors of key technological architects of modern life have for the most part gone unheard and their praises unsung. The woman who created 3D technology, the woman who invented the home security system, the woman who paved the way for space shuttle launches, and the woman who played a pivotal role in the invention of the television we know and rely on so heavily today, are just a few of many, explains Bridget Meyer marketing manager for high end television brand SKYWORTH.
In honour of Women’s Month Meyer details 10 incredible women who have helped shape technology as we know it:
Valerie Thomas – In an era when girls weren't even encouraged to study maths and science, Thomas sought information about technology. She would eventually earn a degree in physics and land a job at NASA in the mid-1960s, where she worked into the 1990s. In 1980 she received a patent for the illusion transmitter, an early form of 3D technology. Uses for the technology have yet to be fully realized, but with the increased interest in 3D, her work will surely be an integral part of the future.
Susan Kare – Kare’s work with user interfaces helped to bring the first Apple computer to life. Her skills in typography and graphic design are responsible for many aspects of the Mac interface still used today, including the command icon. She was also behind the Happy Mac icon that greeted users during boot up, and the trash can icon. Her work played an important role in Job’s efforts to make the personal computer more personable. After Job’s was forced out of Apple in the mid-80s, Kare moved on to Microsoft, where she worked on the Windows 3.0 operating system. She has since done work for Facebook, helping to create some of their ‘digital gifts,’ including the rubber ducky.
Grace Hopper – Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper is known to many as the Queen of Software, or as Grandma COBOL. Hopper invented some of the earliest English-language programming languages and is most closely associated with Common Business-Oriented Language (COBOL), which was based off the FLOW-MATIC language she invented in 1958. Hopper thought that if programming was created in a language that was easier for people to understand, there would be more computer programmers. Today, COBOL is still widely used to build new business applications.
Shirley A. Jackson – Known for her innovative work in theoretical physics and semiconductor theory, Jackson was appointed in 1995 by the U.S. President Bill Clinton the physicist chairwoman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, making her the first woman to hold this prestigious position. In 2002, Discover Magazine named her one of the 50 Most Important Women in Science.
Elma Gardner ‘Pem’ Farnsworth – Farnsworth helped her husband, Philo T. Farnsworth, develop the television and was among the first people whose images were transmitted on TV. Farnsworth worked by her husband's side in his laboratories and fought for decades to assure his place in history after his 1971 death. His first TV transmission was on 7 September 1927, in his San Francisco lab, when the 21-year-old inventor sent the image of a horizontal line to a receiver in the next room. Farnsworth recalled that morning in the lab saying it was a very small screen, about the size of a postage stamp. At first, her and her husband were stunned, it seemed too good to be true. Then Mr Farnsworth said, “there you have it; electric television.”
The first human images transmitted by Farnsworth were of his wife and her brother, Cliff Gardner. A three-and-a-half-inch square image of his wife with her eyes closed was transmitted on 19 October 1929, the first woman on TV. Philo Farnsworth gave his wife equal credit in his invention, saying, that it was the two of them who started TV.
“From the size of a postage stamp to TVs today that could rival an IMAX cinema experience, it’s simply incredible how technology has progressed in less than a century,” acknowledges Meyer. Now so much more than simply a TV, that once ‘electric television,’ has become your home’s control centre. The SKYWORTH S9A OLED TV is a case in point. Being an AI TV, it can be controlled solely by the user’s voice and supports both Google Assistant and other smart home devices such as Amazon Alexa.
When that grainy image of Farnsworth was first transmitted it was hard for anyone to imagine it could get any better. Meyer explains that one of the most amazing S9A OLED features is the Chameleon AI PQ Extreme. It’s a picture quality improvement technology based on the PQ chip. Using AI technology to search, recognise and reconstruct image objects, it improves the picture quality precisely. Chameleon AI PQ Extreme analyses object details based on AI algorithm and adjusts colour performance, particularly red, blue and green, in real time. This means that each pixel can perform at its most accurate and purest colour. So be it movies, sport or series, your SKYWORTH features will match your likes every time.
Dr. Patricia Bath – Dr. Bath invented a device that drastically improved the process for removing cataracts, which can cause impaired vision and blindness. Today, her Laserphaco Probe, which allows for quick and almost painless removal of cataracts, is used around the world. She was the first black woman to receive a medical patent, co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, and was the first woman to become the head of a residency programme in ophthalmology. She also pioneered the concept of ‘community ophthalmology’—a system that increased the amount of eye care available to low-income and underserved populations.
Annie Easley – Easley was a NASA rocket scientist, and a trailblazer for gender and racial diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM). When hired, she was one of only four black employees at the Lab. Over three decades later, she had contributed to numerous programmes as a computer scientist, inspired many through her enthusiastic participation in outreach programmess, and broken-down barriers as equal employment opportunity counsellor. Easley's vital work on the Centaur rocket project while at NASA laid the foundations for future space shuttle launches.
Mary Allen Wilkes – Not only did Wilkes help develop what is now considered the first ‘personal computer,’ she was also the first person to have a PC in her home. Wilkes worked on the LINC (Laboratory INstrument Computer) computer as a programmer and instructions author. She is credited with writing the LINC's operating programme manual and was also the programmer of the LAP6 operating system for the LINC. She’s stated that she took the LINC home with her in order to write the operating system, helping to make working remotely a reality for so many of us today.
Carol Shaw – Shaw is the person behind some retro video games’ most loved graphics. She’s considered the first female video game designer and programmer. She is most famous for her 1982 game River Raid, but she also contributed to 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe in 1979 and Video Checkers in 1980, among many others. Her unpublished 1978 Polo is the first documented game designed and programmed by a woman.
Marie Van Britten Brown – When Brown and her husband Albert noticed increasing crime in their New York neighbourhood, coupled with the fact that police were slow to respond to calls in their part of town, they set out to make their home feel safer. In 1966, they filed a patent for a household closed-circuit-television security system. The system had a camera at the front door that looked through one of four peep holes at different heights. That image was broadcast to the user on a television set in another part of the house. It also had a two-way microphone, allowing for communication with visitors at the door, and a remote switch that could unlock the door to let people in. If the person seemed unsafe, users could push an alert button to signal a nearby security firm. Today, very similar systems can be seen in homes and apartment complexes worldwide.