On the first Ada Lovelace Day, I celebrated the women who taught me hands-on letterpress printing and how to think about open source. Last year, I honored a woman whose work inspired me to explore the craftsy side of physical computing — wearable, personal, interactive, high-touch high-tech.
Before I left the Atlas Laboratory I was fortunate enough to recruit as a programmer a young woman with a 1st class honours degree at Oxford in Akkadian. The Laboratory had recently acquired a device called an SC4020 which allowed us to produce cine-films, microfilms and hard copy of any graphs or pictures that we could draw. The way in which we can use the computer to produce pictures etc., is that the computer produces a set of instructions indicating that certain points on a kind of television screen are to be joined together by lines. By joining a sufficient number of selected points together, highly complex pictures can be drawn and filmed. In particular one can generate the letters of any alphabet one wishes.This year, let’s start with a lecture delivered by R.F. Churchhouse at University College, Cardiff in 1972, on the subject of “Computer Applications in the Arts and Sciences.”The young woman (Susan Hockey) quickly mastered programming and has gone on to become expert in providing this form of output, thus making it possible for linguists to receive their output in its correct alphabetic form, complete with all diacriticials…
By combining her output procedures with a concordance program the way is open for literary output of the very highest quality. For the Arts people present I point out that Mrs. Hockey had no scientific training beyond O-level thus providing a counter-example to the idea that computers are only for scientists.
Susan M. Hockey went on to set much more than a curious counter-example. She spent a full career serving for many of us as one of the most positive role models imaginable, of a woman in important technical, teaching, and leadership positions in the growing field of literary, linguistic, and humanities computing — a community of practice we now call the digital humanities. Read the rest of this entry »