[SIGCIS-Members] History of gendered terms, e.g., "motherboard"
m.priestley at gmail.com
Tue May 23 10:51:38 PDT 2017
I'm not sure if this is the sort of thing you're looking for, but some CS
pioneers were rather keen to use the master-slave metaphor to talk about
human-computer relations. Eg:
Jack Good reported that: "Turing used to refer jocularly to people who are
forced to do
mechanical operations as slaves."
Bardini quotes Engelbart: "Think ahead to the day when computer technology
might provide for your very own use the full-time services of a completely
attentive, very patient, very fast symbol-manipulating slave who has an IQ
adequate for 95% of your today's mental tasks."
And there's this <http://markpriestley.net/pdfs/Huskey.pdf> unfortunate
Newsweek caption about Harry Huskey.
I think probably links back to earlier tropes about robots: eg in Capek's
RUR, the rebellious robots are precisely slaves. I've got an unpublished
conference paper I wrote a few years back about this which I could dig out
if you're interested.
On 23 May 2017 at 18:29, McMillan, William W <william.mcmillan at cuaa.edu>
> Caitlin, this is an interesting study!
> I'm not sure, though, if "today's engineers" would very readily coin
> gender-specific terms for parts of computers. These terms go back a long
> The "master-slave" terminology has going for it that the relationship
> between, say, a bus arbiter and connected devices is, in truth, a
> master-slave relationship. The other connotations make it hard for me to
> use the terms in class, but it's difficult to find synonyms.
> Controller-controlled? Decider-doer? Kind of awkward. (Suggestions
> In contrast to the gendered terms, in describing the tree data structure,
> the relationship between nodes has always been parent-child, back at least
> to Knuth's volumes, not father-son, mother-son, or the like. Same with
> object/class hierarchies.
> - Bill
> From: Members [members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org] on behalf of Wylie,
> Caitlin Donahue (cdw9y) [cdw9y at eservices.virginia.edu]
> Sent: Monday, May 22, 2017 8:11 PM
> To: members at SIGCIS.org
> Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] History of gendered terms, e.g., "motherboard"
> Dear all,
> Do you know of any studies of gendered language in computing? I’m
> intrigued by the way today’s engineers throw around words like
> “motherboard” and “daughterboard”, and also “master” and “slave”, without
> being aware of how those words sound to non-engineers (like me). I’d be
> interested in learning about historical or sociological studies.
> Thank you!
> All the best,
> Caitlin Wylie
> Caitlin D. Wylie, Ph.D.
> Assistant Professor
> Program in Science, Technology and Society
> University of Virginia
> wylie at virginia.edu<mailto:wylie at virginia.edu>
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