Today is Ada Lovelace Day. I want to be very clear that I really don’t have time to blog right now so please excuse the fact this is a bit of a hurried slapped down post but it is too important to ignore.
I’m not big on the positive discrimination that comes alongside pushing ‘Women in Tech’ but we are underrepresented and often sidelined. Childcare is still an issue as Tech jobs often have a certain 24/7 element because, Companies House aside, the web and other engineering dependent services are always on. We don’t quite have equality yet. Not least because there is still a daft pervading assumption that geek culture and booth babe culture share a big chunk of the marketing attraction Venn diagram.
Anyway, this post isn’t about that. This post is about my mum.
My mum was one of the first people, and certainly one of the first women, to work a computer for a commercial enterprise. Back in the day (the early 70s in fact) she worked for a large printing company and used a computer the size of a room, with punchcard programming, to file the payroll. This was still at a time when women were not allowed to work nightshifts alone and so she had to use a gender-ambiguous abbreviation of her first name to sign in and out. She alone knew how to operate this 2k behemoth. Pretty cool, huh?
And yet when she had me she pretty much had to leave the company because, well, that’s what you did. I think that’s such a shame. My mum would have been a rad geek. She is, really. She has always encouraged my geeky tendencies buying me a computer, a Texas Instruments cartridge run thing, when I was 5 and helping me learn to play chess with it. Later when she got me a BBC Micro, she helped me read Usborne books on Basic and typed in programs for me explaining what the code was doing. She helped me write my first text adventure. She can still touchtype like a pro.
She bought me video games when ‘girls didn’t play games’. She helped me defeat the bosses on Mario 3 on the NES we borrowed from our neighbours. She bought me a gameboy. She encouraged me to use a wordprocessor program to learn how to type. She was supportive when I came home from uni with a request to get a PC with internet access and put up with hours of me hogging the phoneline, at 1p a minute, to chat with friends on IRC.
I met my husband via the internet. I talked to my friends virtually. I found my social circle. And even when the Daily Mail said the internet was purely for sexual predators to find young girls she didn’t do more than warn me to be careful.
And I never thought any of this was different or odd. She always encouraged me. And now I’m a proud geek – gamer, twitter addict, flickr nerd, writer, blogger. It’s no exaggeration to say I wouldn’t be doing this, on my laptop, sat in a random office if she hadn’t said ‘We’ve got you something new to play with. It’s a computer.’ back in 1985.