[SIGCIS-Members] The Women of Datamation

Murray Turoff murray.turoff at gmail.com
Wed Sep 2 18:26:47 PDT 2015

In the early days of computers, the mid 60' to mid 70' some of the best
programmers were females who had been English majors in college and who
later learned to program.  They were very good also at learning new
languages when needed.

On Tue, Sep 1, 2015 at 10:54 PM, Dag Spicer <dspicer at computerhistory.org>

> Dear SIGCIS friends,
> I’m beginning research for a long-form essay on how women were used to
> sell computers as protrayed in the industry magazine Datamation.
> I have completed my survey of images and am now seeking some guodance
> abdout possible theoretical perspectives to consider.
> Estelle Freedman at Stanford pointed me to The Feminine Mystique, which I
> am now reading.  Of course, that was written many decades ago.  I don’t
> really track the scholarship in this area so any pointers would be greatly
> appreciated.
> Working observation: In the late 1950s, women were portrayed as
> functional, "sensibly” dressed, clerical workers using the computer in a
> (contrived) but plausibly real-world application.  Beginning in the
> mid-1960s and onwards into the mid 1970s, women were portrayed as highly
> sexualized, alluringly dressed “human parsley,” garnishing a computer
> product -- in one case literally draped over a mainframe CPU cabinet in a
> bikini — with no relevance or appeal to the usual benfits cited for
> computers, viz. efficiency, cost-control, &c.  One of many questions I
> have: Does this long-term movement to sex rather than the prior economic or
> technical arguments reflect a change in the people making computer
> purchasing decisions?  Was it an ephemeral trope in adverstising — “it was
> the 60s, man!” or something else?  Sex sells… but who’s buying?  How does
> the portrayal of women in the leading journal for the ccomputer industry
> over decades reflect buerys and sellers?  Can we draw parallels with how
> other technologies have used women in their advertising?   &c.
> Thanks for any thoughts…
> Dag
> --
> Dag Spicer
> Senior Curator
> Computer History Museum
> Editorial Board, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing
> 1401 North Shoreline Boulevard
> Mountain View, CA 94043-1311
> Tel: +1 650 810 1035
> Fax: +1 650 810 1055
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*please send messages to murray.turoff at gmail.com <murray.turoff at gmail.com>
do not use @njit.edu <http://njit.edu> addressDistinguished Professor
EmeritusInformation Systems, NJIThomepage: http://is.njit.edu/turoff
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