91

I think Rear Admiral Grace Hopper is perhaps the easiest to explain to new students, and to tie in with an important advancement in computer science. I try to discuss the transition from early programming in machine language to programming in higher level languages. I'll usually show the students some machine code that I will tediously decrypt. Then I show ...


65

Ada Lovelace is considered the first programmer - pretty good introduction to a CS class. As Wikipedia puts it: She was the first to recognise that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation, and created the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine. As a result, she is often regarded as the first to recognise the full ...


44

Obviously, there is no way to definitively know the answer to this question. But my favorite theory has to do with the advent of the home PC, and the original marketing of computer games to boys. The strongest support for this theory is the timing, which means that I must now give the obligatory caveat that correlation is not causation. Basically, the ...


42

You should probably teach Barbara Liskov and her substitution principle in an introductory CS class. Oh, and she also won some random award... like a Turing award or something... =P Barbara Liskov was one of the first women to be granted a doctorate in computer science in the United States and has led many significant projects, including the Venus ...


39

One of my favorite iconoclastic point-outs is Dorothy Vaughan. One of the USA space program's first computer programmers, who was originally hired as a computer. She was an African-American who grew up under segregation. In spite of this, her direct contributions to the space program and computer programming are large. Her influence on many others, who also ...


31

Shafi Goldwasser is the 2012 Turing award laurete, together with Silvio Micali. The two are considered to be more-or-less the founders of the modern theory of cryptography. They were the first to provide a satisfactory definition of "when should an encryption scheme be considered secure?" and "when should a function be considered pseudo-random", and to come ...


24

Radia Perlman She is most famous for her invention of the spanning-tree protocol (STP) [...]. She also made large contributions to many other areas of network design and standardization, such as link-state protocols, including TRILL, which she invented to correct some of the shortcomings of spanning-trees. She also wrote a poem about STP :) I think ...


24

Women just like some majors more than others. For whatever reason, they dominate (source): Health Professions; Social Work; Education; Psychology; outnumbering men by at least 3-to-1 in all of those fields. Each woman who spends all of her time studying to become a doctor is a woman who isn't studying to be a computer scientist. The clear common ground ...


22

Not having been around at the time, I searched timelines and came up with some interesting data: As Ben said, marketing targeted men. Advertisements featured boys on personal computers. That was how it started. IBM and Apple marketed the first personal computers in 1977. Apple launched the Apple II and advertised their new product. Their ads, as stated, ...


19

Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress, worked with George Antheil during World War II to create a radio system for the US Navy that was safe from jamming by the Axis powers, contributing greatly to the development of frequency hopping, or switching a signal between many frequency channels, which is used quite a bit in current day network design, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ...


17

I find it amazing that nobody here even mentioned the possibility that men simply find programming much more interesting than women do. The question can only be answered with a hypothesis so I will give you mine: In the 80's personal computers became more common; boys liked them, girls didn't. There that's it, that's the whole explanation, the simplest and ...


16

Computing was historically a female-dominated field. "Computers" used to be mostly women working out mathematical calculations. With the advent of mechanical and then electrical computers (during WW2, when men were sparse already), these women were drafted to do the data entry and cross-checking. When input complexity evolved from entering numbers into a ...


14

Adele Goldberg was one of the seven programmers that developed Smalltalk, one of the first object oriented programming languages - so nice for your OOP unit. Many concepts developed by her team became the basis of graphical user interfaces. There are many other women listed at Wikipedia's women in computer programming page that you could draw from.


11

Nancy G. Leveson is a pioneer in software safety. I read her article, co-authored with Clark S. Turner, on the Therac-25 Accidents as an undergraduate and found it approachable and interesting. (She co-taught Software Engineering the quarter I took it.) "An Investigation of the Therac-25 Accidents" by Nancy G. Leveson & Clarck S. Turner. IEEE Computer ...


11

I'd also consider Margaret Hamilton. Aside from the awesome nerdy picture, she has published over 130 papers, proceedings, and reports about the 60 projects and six major programs in which she has been involved. She was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama for her work on NASA's Apollo missions developing on-board flight ...


10

I like your locksmith comparison, but I don't agree with the following assertion: From there, we arrive at this fine distinction: if a security feature is designed to keep you out, even if that security feature is very poorly implemented, then it is almost always unethical to circumvent it. Therefore, we should only study hacking using "practice locks", ...


10

Three concrete ideas come to mind based on my experience building a CS program essentially from scratch at the high school level: Have at least one class that has no pre-requisite. We have one intro to programming course that any student can register for, including freshmen. Students don't need any background, any strength in math, any previous AP/Honors/...


9

The Atari VCS game E.T. came out in December 1982, which led to the start of North American video game crash of 1983, the end of a video game software industry boom. That market fell from 3.2B to perhaps 100M (in U.S. dollars) in just a couple years. Programmers were being laid off in droves. Boxed software was being sent to landfill. Software and computer ...


8

To expand your terms of reference for "people who look like me", you should definitely include Sophie Wilson (born Roger Wilson). She was one of the major developers of the Acorn Atom, and later designed the instruction set for the ARM1. Virtually every mobile phone in the world uses ARM devices derived from her work, which makes her pretty damn ...


7

While some may have varying opinions, I am a big admirer of Lynn Conway. She originally began her career at IBM and invented pioneering technologies that were eventually used in modern dynamic execution microarchitectures. After being fired for revealing her intention to transition to a female gender role, she essentially was forced to "reboot" her career ...


7

Can't believe no one mentioned Nancy Lynch at MIT of FLP fame, a pioneer in distributed systems theory. The FLP is an impossibility result about obtaining consensus in a distributed system with potentially faulty processes (or, more succinctly, processes). A good way to introduce in CS would be discussing concurrency and having the students try to implement ...


7

tl;dr- That peak around 1986 looks pretty difficult to explain in terms of interest. After searching a bit, I found a paper that attempts to explain it in terms of teaching capacity. This paper argues that the rapid rise in student interest in the early 1980's flooded Computer Science departments, forcing them to raise entrance standards to avoid being ...


6

First please be very cognizant of the term "hacking" Some of what you are describing is "cracking" not "hacking" The techniques may be the same but the intent is different. I think you are having problems with this because you yourself aren't comfortable with making this distinction. You cannot prevent someone who is rotten to the core from taking your ...


6

To give another perspective, when teaching an intro to web development course it's very useful to teach things in a way similar to how they were discovered and contextualize the different concepts in history. It's easy to understand why HTML is a markup language rather than a full fledged language when you consider the time: The Web was used for serving ...


6

There are some history topics that link really well with computing - for example a history of communication, taking in writing, printing, semaphore, the telegraph and Morse code etc, through to the internet and the web. The English history curriculum for 5-7 year olds suggests that pupils compare William Caxton and Tim Berners Lee. Another great topic ...


6

While I have not seen any compelling evidence ether way. I as wondering if there is a true underlying gender element, or at least to deep to be fixed locally (with in CS). I wonder if this is related to “what are female roles?” and “What is a computer?”. For the first question, the answer is getting broader over time, so I don't think the answer lies here. ...


5

I think this an essential and main part of teaching programming and cs (and teaching in general). The ability to hold the answer and guide the student to it. What I do is try to follow the thought process of the student. When working with them to help them find the problem, I ask various questions (usually "what do you thing is causing this?" etc.) and by ...


5

I suspect in the US it is a generational issue. A 22 year old woman graduating in 1984 would have been born in 1962 to parents who belonged to the Silent Generation. A 22 year old woman graduating in 1988 have parents who were Babyboomers. These two generations have vastly different values, and they raised their children with a different set of values. When ...


5

As computer science degrees began to turn into software engineering careers the programs began to take on the culture and workstyle of engineering programs. Unfortunately this often means women face gender stereotypes and marginalizing behavior at the hands of their peers. I believe this is why efforts to improve enrollment for women in these programs ...


5

This seems to me to be the sort of topic that is best covered with an assignment such as Write a paper, citing resources, on the topic of XYZ. There are a number of other things that can be addressed this way. One advantage of such an assignment is that students have to write using natural language, which often gets too little attention in technical ...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible