Unit 1 Week 2

Rankin taught me that women played a large role in early computer science. It was the “cold war” gender norms that kept women from getting the credit that they deserved. Although this was something she talked about happening in the 1900’s, she also discusses how it’s still something that is relevant to day; computer science is still mainly a male dominant field. This is a re-occuring theme in her discussion, even when talking about computing for the younger generations Rankin wonders if there is a bigger push to get boys into coding and not so much with the girls at a young age. Dear discusses PLATO; Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations. In the 1960s there were many people kicking around the idea of having computers that would teach people, at the time there was a shortage of teachers and this was a concept that was widely thought about as a good idea. Dear goes on to discuss how he came to see PLATO in action at the University of Delaware and how it wasn’t only being used for learning, it was being used to communicate with other people as well. It was interesting to see how PLATO had developed and became so advanced and it is now used in school but under the term STEM. 


Something that surprised me, although it probably shouldn’t have, was how Rankin said that in the 1960’s although women were technically more inclined to work with computer science it was the boys who had more access and who took over the field. This just kind of shocked me because private schools catered to boys and they had the better programs, where women had to go to the lesser intense programs in public schools. There was still that thought that women were supposed to be homemakers, not get into computing. One thing that surprised me about what Dear had said was how PLATO, a tool used to converse with other people, was already out when the Apple II came out, the Commodore PET, etc. This shows how society really influences people, although PLATO was probably the better option at the time it wasn’t relevant to society at the time. All the new computers that probably didn’t do half as much as PLATO were more “in” and I just find that fascinating. 


After reading through the debate, it seems as though both Dear and Rankin feel attacked by one another. Dear feels as though Rankin is portraying PLATO all wrong. Rankin feels as though gender does play a role in PLATO as well as many other parts of computer science past, while Dear, having worked with PLATO himself, feels that that is completely off base. There also seems to be a very bad case of miscommunication between them as well, feeling as though the other one is attacking their thoughts and beliefs. They clearly do not have the same views on PLATO.
 

    • Gerald Ardito
      Gerald Ardito

      Nina,

      Your response to these readings and video is very thorough and insightful.

      As I have shared with some of your classmates, I have had some interaction with Brian Dear. Interestingly, when I was preparing to teach this course last Spring, I had just read the books by both authors. I had been following Brian Dear on Twitter and invited him to participate in a video session for the course. He initially agreed, but then when he saw that I framed his interactions with Rankin as a debate, he begged off. I tried to explain that I was very eager for him to share his work on PLATO, but apparently I had upset him.  Oh well.

      I liked what you said about their interactions:

      There also seems to be a very bad case of miscommunication between them as well, feeling as though the other one is attacking their thoughts and beliefs. They clearly do not have the same views on PLATO.

      Well said.

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