Not All Marginalization is Misogyny

Every few years, the following photograph of Margaret Hamilton makes the rounds in social media. This particular image's popularity is not surprising; it's a great shot of Hamilton, who was NASA's lead developer for Apollo program, standing next to the stack of computer printouts for the software that told the Apollo Guidance Computer what to do and when to do it, which eventually helped astronauts land on the moon.

Margaret-Hamilton-With-Apollo-Software

A friend recently posted this image to social media, and upon seeing it, someone else responded, "That is incredible. Why haven't I ever heard of her before?"

My friend's reply was simple: "Because men."

I completely understood my friend's point. There are far too many times where women are overlooked in their respective fields. But I was annoyed and frustrated by my friend's two-word reply, because there are times when gender has nothing to do with whether someone's accomplishments are publicly recognized. In this specific instance, Hamilton's relative obscurity wasn't due to misogyny. Developers like Margaret Hamilton, Grace Hopper, Jean E. Sammet, and Frances Allen are pioneers in their respective contributions to computer science and software engineering, but the real reason why people haven't heard of them is because: they're computer scientists, and no one cares about computer scientists, except for other computer scientists.

In some fields, men are easy targets for a good round of bashing where "popularity" or "fame" are concerned, but when an entire career field isn't "popular," then EVERYONE who works in that field remains obscure. As history shows, Hamilton (and Hopper, and Sammet, and Allen) earned a host of accolades, but most people haven't heard of them because we use their work without giving a second thought where it came from. (Which, by the way, is true of all engineering fields, but I digress.) I challenge anyone to name a single engineer - man or woman - who helped to produce the iPhone, which is (for better or worse) one of the most civilization-altering inventions in history. Oh, sure - everyone can name Steve Jobs, because he owned the company. But Steve Jobs never "made" anything; millions of unnamed engineers - both men and women - are responsible for the iPhone, the iMac, Windows, Google, Microsoft Office, etc.

Here's another example: I just watched the new "Thor" movie, and Taika Waititi's name is everywhere during the credits because he co-wrote and directed the movie; but most people probably haven't heard of his co-writer, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, because "men." (Hollywood has always been and continues to remain misogynistic, but once again I digress.) However, did anyone bother to pay attention when the credits listed hundreds of people who worked on SFX/CGI for the movie? Nope - we enjoyed their work, but the computer scientists and digital artists who contributed to every scene in that movie remain unknown to anyone outside of their field.

Looping this back to the original subject of NASA and whether they slighted Margaret Hamilton, can anyone name any of the other members of her software development team? If the entire reason some people haven't heard of her was "because men," then I would assume that people could name some of the men who were on her team because they would have received credit for her work. But no, people can't name any of them, either. And why is that? Because - engineers.

How about any of the men and women who designed the Apollo space capsule? Or the Lunar Rover? Or the space suits? Or the propulsion systems? Or the communication systems? Or anyone involved in Skylab? Or the Space Shuttle? Or the Mars probes? Once again, people can't name a single one of those people. And why is that? Because "engineers."

NASA isn't slighting anyone. On the contrary, NASA hires brilliant minds - both men and women - who remain unknown to the general public because they chose extremely technical career fields that lead to obscurity within the community, and societal anonymity doesn't care about gender when it comes to scientific ignorance...

Boss-Leader-Programmer

Al Gore and the Invention of the Internet

There is an age-old story circling within political spheres that former Vice President Al Gore once claimed to have "invented the Internet." And in contrast to that story, there is a counter-rumor floating around that Gore never said any such thing. To help put this issue to rest, Tech Insider created a video a few years ago that was designed to promote the idea that Gore has simply been "misquoted" over the years.

In deference to Tech Insider's claims, there is a vast difference between being "misquoted" and "misspeaking." Al Gore has NOT been "famously misquoted" with regard to his comments to CNN in that video, in which he clearly says, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet." That is a direct quote, not a misquote. Of course, history tells us that Gore was misspeaking when he said that, which could be attributed to hubris, deceit, or ignorance.

Putting things in perspective, Al Gore uttered his now-infamous boast during his failed presidential run against George W. Bush. Gore's campaign took place at the height of the Internet dot-com boom, when billions of dollars were pouring into the economy as a result of the Internet explosion. With that in mind, it is not outside the realms of probability that Gore was attempting to ingratiate himself to voters by claiming that he was the one responsible for all of that new-found wealth. Which, if you think about it, is a pretty good strategy, as long as you can count on what Jonathan Gruber once called "The Stupidity Of The American Voter." In other words, you can say anything you want - like claiming to invent the Internet - as long as your voters are too stupid to know better.

Nevertheless, Tech Insider's and other people's insistence that Al Gore has been "misquoted" are ludicrous. Regardless of his reasons for doing so, it is a matter of undisputed fact that Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet. And it is also a matter of undisputed fact that Al Gore did not invent the Internet.


If you'd like a brief introduction as to what really happened when the Internet was created, the following three-minute video should tell you everything you need to know.

By the way, if you've read some of my old blogs, you'll see that I wrote the Request for Comments (RFC) document number 7151, which defines a method of multi-hosting for the Internet's File Transfer Protocol (FTP). Since that document has been published as part of the Standards Track for the Internet, I can legitimately say that - unlike Al Gore - I actually took the initiative and helped reinvent the Internet. Oh sure, it's only a small, obscure part of the Internet, but still... I can honestly say that I did something that Al Gore can only claim to have done.

Those who can - do. Those who can't - teach.

A few years ago I elected to take a class at the University of Arizona as a refresher for a programming language that I hadn't used in over a decade. I was originally self-taught in the language, and I knew that the language had evolved since I had last used it, so I thought that it would be worthwhile endeavor to study it formally.

The class was going well, but when I turned in one of my assignments, the professor had dropped my grade a full letter because - seriously - he didn't like my variable names. Being an adult - and not an 18-year-old that's fresh out of high school - I have no problems confronting an academic when I think they're incorrect. In addition, as someone who has been in the software industry for years, I have no problems calling BS when I think it's warranted.

I scheduled a time to meet with my professor, whereupon I told him that I thought he was wrong. All my variables were descriptive of their purpose, and I used a consistent format across the entire assignment. In addition, I wanted my grade restored.

The professor looked at me and said, "No one names variables like that."

I replied, "That's called 'Hungarian Notation.' It's a widely-used standard in the software industry."

He attempted to counter with, "That's outdated. No one uses that anymore."

To which I replied, "I work for Microsoft. We write millions of lines of code every day using that notation."

He grumbled a bit more, but eventually he acquiesced and restored my grade.

I later discovered that this particular professor earned his BS in Computer Science, then his Master's, then his Doctorate, and then went straight into teaching at higher education establishments. In other words, he's never worked a single day in the industry that he is teaching about, and yet somehow the software engineers of tomorrow are supposed to learn from him?

The Future - and Past - of Dual-Screen Laptops and Tablets

Nearly a decade ago, Microsoft cancelled the Courier tablet (see below), which would have been the first dual-screen tablet/laptop on the market, and it would have been competing head-to-head with the single-screen iPad when that tablet was first released:

Now the Courier's untimely death seems especially premature, since the big news coming from Computex 2018 is that several of the big computer manufacturers are coming out with dual-screen tablets/laptops that look all-too-familiar to anyone who saw a Microsoft Courier tablet back in the day:

It seems that - given enough time - foresight and hindsight can become blurred...

The Internet Is Down

You know, for all those hundreds of times that my kids would tell me "The Internet is Down," today the Internet actually goes down and none of my kids lived at home to complain about it. I'm not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing...

Confused smile


FYI - For news about the Internet outage, see the following URLs:

I Guess I'm Not So Special After All...

I've been going through my emails, and I'm beginning to get the feeling that all of those "Hot Deals Just For You" messages that I've been receiving for the past 20 years aren't just for me...

So sad.

Crying face