The Information Age

First “Computer”

The word “computer,” alternately spelled “computor,” (when referring to a person) originally referred to a person who did computation work and mathematics–someone who computed–a job that first became common in the late 19th century. The first computers were typically women with advanced education, as men with college degrees tended to feel that the job was too repetitive for them. Women played a vital role in computing particularly during wartime; while some men computed during World War I, by World War II the feminization of the job meant that ballistics computing fell to women. Some women who would eventually become involved with computer machines even got their start working as human computers.

For other milestones in “computor” development, see:




Source:  Margaret Layne, ed., Women in Engineering: Pioneers and Trailblazers (Reston, Virginia: American Society of Civil Engineers Publishing, 2009), 179-190.

Note: Year is approximate.

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