The women's world

The Pak Banker - - OPINION - Deepa Kandaswamy

OB­SER­VA­TION of In­ter­na­tional Women's Day has be­come a rou­tine like eat­ing break­fast. How many of us even know that it was women who in­vented the tech­nolo­gies that make the so-called in­dis­pens­able things in our life - com­puter, mo­bile/cell phone and wire­less gad­gets. When Steve Jobs died, the world mourned. When Jean Bar­tik died the same year, very few no­ticed. But with­out Jean Bar­tik, Steve Jobs wouldn't have made it. No, Jean is not his mother, sis­ter or wife but was the first com­puter pro­gram­mer of the world and one of the six women who gave birth to the com­puter soft­ware in­dus­try. With­out her, the com­puter won't ex­ist. She was 86 when she passed away and no one no­ticed!

Are you aware that a woman in­vented pa­per on which you are read­ing this or if you are read­ing this on the Net, the mother of the In­ter­net search en­gine is a woman? Women are dis­guised by the coun­try in which they are born "Pa­per was in­vented in China" in­stead of pa­per was in­vented by Chi­nese woman and Em­press Shi Dun or a De­part­ment "Com­puter was in­vented by the US De­fence De­part­ment" in­stead of the six women who be­came the world's first pro­gram­mers namely Kath­leen (Kay) An­tonelli, Jean J. Bar­tik, Betty S. Hol­ber­ton, Mar­i­lyn W. Meltzer, Frances B. Spence, and Ruth L. Teit­el­baum who gave birth to an in­dus­try, namely the soft­ware /IT in­dus­try. Jean was the last of the moth­ers of IT.

Peo­ple search for ev­ery­thing from baby names to jobs, prod­ucts to project guides on the In­ter­net. How­ever, what many do not know is that this search is pos­si­ble be­cause of a woman named Ra­dia Perlman. In the 1970s, Ra­dia was work­ing at a school, teach­ing pro­gram­ming for chil­dren. She made sev­eral pre­sen­ta­tions at com­puter con­fer­ences on tan­gi­ble com­put­ing and span­ning tree al­go­rithm. She was ig­nored un­til 1980. A man­ager at Dig­i­tal Equip­ment de­cided it might solve their prob­lem and hired her.

The rout­ing prob­lems dis­ap­peared. Nowa­days the span­ning tree al­go­rithm, which helps di­rect net­work traf­fic has be­come so em­bed­ded in the In­ter­net, that Ra­dia Perlman is nick­named "Mother of the In­ter­net". To­day, she works at Sun Mi­crosys­tems and is the owner of the max­i­mum num­ber of patents in the world. Next time, you Google or use any other search en­gine, re­mem­ber Ra­dia Perlman.

Most of you might have watched the Os­cars. But did you know that it is a Hol­ly­wood ac­tress who in­vented the spec­trum tech­nol­ogy that makes your cell­phone/mo­bile func­tion? The spread spec­trum tech­nol­ogy is used in mul­ti­ple wire­less ap­pli­ca­tions to­day but the lady who in­vented it is not known. Hed­wig Eva Maria Kiesler was a Aus­trian born Hol­ly­wood ac­tress bet­ter known as Hedy La­marr whose most fa­mous hit was Sam­son and Delilah, the first colour film ever pro­duced where she plays Delilah.

She was the first woman to wear strap­less gowns in movies. She be­came no­to­ri­ous for it. Her lesser known other first is that she is co-in­ven­tor of fre­quency hop­ping tech­nol­ogy and the in­ven­tor of spread spec­trum tech­nol­ogy, which is used in our cell phones, in­ter­net, Wi-Fi, de­fence satel­lites and a plethora of other wire­less de­vices used to­day. She is one ac­tress who went from strap­less to wire­less eas­ily and was the first hu­man to do both.

Florence Nightin­gale, the "fa­mous" nurse was a bril­liant math­e­ma­ti­cian and her in­ven­tion of the pie chart that busi­nesses, re­searchers, and gov­ern­ments world­wide use nowa­days is un­known. Stephanie Kwolek in­vented Kevlar, a ma­te­rial that is stronger than steel. Light­weight, it doesn't rust or cor­rode and is used to make bul­let­proof vests, un­der­wa­ter ca­bles, para­chutes, space­crafts, skis, etc.

With­out Kevlar, space travel would be im­pos­si­ble. Nei­ther would satel­lite tech­nol­ogy nor would In­ter­net be com­mer­cially vi­able for many coun­tries.

Your car can­not run with­out petrol or diesel and with­out crude oil re­fin­ing, it is not pos­si­ble to get any­thing to run. Did you know this is pos­si­ble due to a woman? Edith Flani­gen in­vented the crude oil re­fin­ing process in 1956 and her molec­u­lar sieves made pe­tro­leum pro­duc­tion ef­fi­cient, safer, com­mer­cially vi­able and cleaner world­wide.

While ob­serv­ing March 8 as In­ter­na­tional Woman's Day, it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that ev­ery­thing we think we can­not live with­out has been in­vented by women and salute the women who made it all pos­si­ble. It is time th­ese women are recog­nised, as oth­er­wise his­tory would re­main in­com­plete. Let us recog­nise and cel­e­brate other women who are still alive like Anousheh Rais­syan An­sari, Ra­dia Perlman, Gertrude Elion, Kather­ine Blod­gett, Gail Naughton, Leah Maxwell, Dr. Pa­tri­cia Bath, Mina Bis­sell, Krisztina Holly, and more who have made life eas­ier for us all to­day.

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