[SIGCIS-Members] History of gendered terms, e.g., "motherboard"

Mark Priestley m.priestley at gmail.com
Tue May 23 10:51:38 PDT 2017

Hi Caitlin,

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 I've got an unpublished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
> way.
> 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
> welcome!)
> 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>
> http://www.eands.virginia.edu/faculty-staff/wylie/
> _______________________________________________
> This email is relayed from members at sigcis.org, the email discussion
> list of SHOT SIGCIS. Opinions expressed here are those of the member
> posting and are not reviewed, edited, or endorsed by SIGCIS. The list
> archives are at http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/ and
> you can change your subscription options at http://lists.sigcis.org/
> listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/attachments/20170523/a4cc29c4/attachment-0001.htm>

More information about the Members mailing list