A northwest Missouri native who became one of the six women who programmed the world’s first electronic computer has died in Poughkeepsie, New York. Jean Jennings Bartik was 86. She was raised near Stanberry, educated in a one-room school, was the only female math major at Northwest Missouri State Teachers College, from which she graduated in 19-45. The school’s computer museum is named for her.
She was CALLED a computer while helping the army calculate artillery trajectories, work that she said normally took 30 to 40 hours of hand calculation. She helped program the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer—ENIAC, it was called—a computer so big it filled a room the size of a small gymnasium, weighed 15 tons and had 18,000 vacuum tubes in the pre-printed circuit days. The first time ENIAC demonstrated its capabilities, it calculated a shell’s trajectory in twenty seconds, ten seconds less than it took the shell to reach its target.
She also worked on two other pioneering computers, the BINAC and the UNIVAC. She was put in the Women in Technology Hall of Fame in 1997.
Northwest Missouri State University vice president Jon Rickman has told the Maryville Daily Forum, “Today, there are over 1.4-million computer programmers and software developers in the United States and Jean Jennings Bartik was the first.”
A 2008 interview with Jean Jennings Bartik at the Computer History Museum is at: