[SIGCIS-Members] Question From The American Computer & Robotics Museum in Montana

Chuck House housec1839 at gmail.com
Mon Apr 9 14:51:39 PDT 2018

Interesting question, George.  I am hopeful that you get lots of useful input   


I am concerned that you could be 'too narrow' in the sense of saying "only PC hardware"    That certainly could count the IBM PC designers, the Apple II and Mac designers, the KayPro and its ilk, the Osborne, and maybe even the Franklin and the Eagle, right?   


But it would not include the key chip for Apple, the Mostek 6502, or the tools including ion implantation from Applied Materials that helped the 6502 layout team, right?   Is this what you hoped to elicit by adding "chips"?


Almost all the chips were done at chip companies, except for HP, DEC, and IBM.  Specifically, they weren't really done at the PC companies.  And a PC included lots of firmware/software that was integral to the machine very often rather than on floppys or externally packaged.    Never mind that the Mac was said to be 'saved' by Desktop Publishing, and the whole field by the killer Spreadsheet.   


My guess is that you exclude workstations, mini's, and desktops, not to mention handheld calculators, printers, disc drives, etc.—all of which to some of us were allied with, or part and parcel of, the PC revolution.


For the specific question about women hardware designers at PC companies, I don’t know of any offhand.     But I would definitely include Janelle Bedke, who was a software designer early at HP, then became the hardware and software project manager for the HP 2621 aimed at the TRS-80 and Osborne 1 niche, and then co-founded and became COO and then CEO for Software Publishing, the third or fourth largest PC software company in the world when IBM’s Charlie Chaplin ad urged the IBM Assistant Series (which was SPC’s PFS line).   I think SPC was the 2nd IPO in Silicon Valley founded or co-founded by a woman—ASK Computer with Sandy Kurtzig was first, Sandy Lerner with Cisco was third.   Janelle’s career began as a hardware microwave engineer at HP in the early 70’s


If you include “chips” in general, not just for the PC, my top candidate would be Lynn Conway, for whom I penned an IEEE article a few years back.   https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/6393024/     Conway did yeoman work at XeroxPARC re VLSI circuit design, unheralded for a long time.    She is one of our “Fellows” at the Computer History Museum.


I would absolutely include Pat Castro of HP, who was the first female engineer at Fairchild Semi (who experienced plenty of anti-MeToo acts), and later ran HP's IC fab shop, processing Conway's VLSI work for Stanford and PARC.   She has two key HP Journal articles in June 1981.   Jim Gibbons at Stanford, and Lynn herself, are clear that without Pat's contribution, virtually none of the VLSI work that she and Carver Mead described would have been brought to fruition for several more years.


If you admit PC software (and Bedke), I would also include Adele Goldberg, for her 'software' work on Smalltalk, and her encouragement of Alan Kay for the DynaBook.   She probably wouldn't make your cut if it has to be hardware, but if it is to be PC-centric, her work led to the GUI's that the Mac employed famously.  She in fact strongly opposed letting Jobs into PARC, convinced he’d do what he in fact did.


Admittedly adjacent to your request,  I thought it interesting to see how and where women show up in the HP designer 'archives' -- prior to and including PC development.   And the answer is sadly LOW.    The handheld calculator lines and the desktop computer lines had virtually no women designers cited; the minicomputer lines had some, mostly doing firmware or software.    Peripherals?  None.  See http://www.hpl.hp.com/hpjournal/pdfs/IssuePDFs/hpjindex.html


There were three women designers on the HP 21-MX series (HPJ October 1974), none explicitly hardware designers, but all with hardware 'chops':  Bedke notably.


The first by-lined and profiled HP woman engineer was Lynn Tillman, who did the microprogramming (then a hardware function in PROMs) for the HP-70 and HP-22 handheld calculators.   See Nov 75 HPJ


The next issue, December 1975 has three articles citing women designers.  The first article concerns hybrid chip development, done in part by Ruth Buss, Rose Stamps, and Gina Anderson.   This work is adjacent to computer design per se, but the next two, one by Linda Averett and the other co-authored by Adele Gadol, are for HP's first real-time executive operating system work, RTE-II, then closely coupled to hardware design even though it was technically software.   This was mostly for real-time control systems, think satellite space controllers, rather than CPUs for business.  And a long way from PCs.


Kathy Hahn was first bylined and profiled in HPJ March 1977. for her CS work on HPE and RTE-III, the HP 1000 Real-time Executive operating system.   Next, she did the RTE-IV real-time operating system for the HP1000 family--this was THE hardware/software interface operating system for the world for the next decade.  See October 1978 HPJ, which also cites Linda Averett and Sheila Kapoor.  The key article in this issue though was by Julia Cates, who was the project leader and key designer of the F-series floating point chip.  


Another 'adjacent' was Carolyn Finch, for her role in designing miniature probes for IC testing--April 77 HPJ (this was 'mechanical eng'g' for an electrical parametric situation) when HP was 'big' in PC chips, shipping 75,000 16-bit micros before Intel sampled its first one.   


A number of women were listed for the ill-fated SOS-based HP300, mostly for RPG software and software functionality contributions.  See HPJ June 1979, which includes Wendy Pelkus' article re RPG, Report Program Generator, for biz apps; and May Kovelick's article re the HP300 BASIC compiler.


Izagma Alonso- Velez was the HP 64000 PASCAL compiler designer--again software, but dedicated to developing firmware tasks.  See Oct 1980 HPJ


Nancy Federman wrote several significant manufacturing tracking system components, viz. April 1981.   This is in the era when Sandy Kurtzig founded ASK Computer doing similar things (Sandy's husband worked at HP).   Maybe more significantly, Loretta Winston authored an article in the same issue about "Customizing Software for computers" that was both prescient and exemplary for being the first black female to be published at HP (and maybe in the industry).


For HP chip design, a big part was the Electron Beam Lithography program, which along with Bell Labs was the leading chip definition system of the era.  Nancy Kendzierski was one of the two software designers for the project columnator; several other women contributed to the software for the multiple exposure runs.   See May 1981 HPJ.  This issue is the month before the big June 1981 issue re HP Chip designs which featured Castro.


Karen Meinert was the key main memory designer for HP's biggest mini, the HP3000 64. Full-on hardware!    Story in HPJ, March 1982


Kathy Qwinn, at HP Fort Collins, is the first woman cited from HP's desktop computer divisions.  She led the BASIC compiler development, for what at the time was by far the leading desktop computer system in the world in unit placements and revenue; story in May 1982 HPJ.   See the history of these lines in http://www.hp9825.com


Susan Okada led the plasma etching system for the dry lithography work at HP Labs that resulted in many microchip developments.   HPJ Aug 1982


In the Sept 1983 HPJ issue, four women are included in HP's first low-cost color terminals, the HP 2700 family.   Sharon  Mead was the project manager, along with Catherin Potter and two others;  Diane Rodriquez and Barbara Stanley wrote the PaintBrush app.


And in December 1983, Janet Accentura co-teamed to lead the Ultrasound Imaging system, with Radhu Basu assisting (later a key Indian developer in the Valley).


Leslie Neft (the A-700( and Marlu Allen (the A-900) were two key hardware designers for HP's low-cost 'mini's--the HP 1000 Series A--described by program manager Nancy Schoendorf and others in Feb 1984 HPJ.   Sara Dickinson, not profiled, was a key hardware designer as well.     Elizabeth Clark co-wrote the RTE operating system.


The August 1984 HPJ issue described HP's ill-fated Touchscreen 150 PC, with Carol Mills as product manager (later to be a key industry exec); Susan Carrie and Trish Brown on hardware; Becky Smith on firmware; and the aforementioned Sharon Mead with Sherry Murphy and Barbara Packard as project managers.   


Laura Cory, Nancy Schoendorf, Gail Hamilton, Janelle Bedke, Carol Mills are a few designers from HP who went on to significant contributions elsewhere.   


Cory worked in DSD as a designer, then marketing director, then division manager.  

Later, she became a key exec elsewhere http://bigpicture.net/article/cory-named-president-sun-chemicals-digital-unit


Schoendorf also worked at DSD, then CSY, as an HP-UX operating systems designer, then moved to Software Publishing with Bedke, then to SUN, and then to the VC world.   http://mdv.com/nancy-schoendorf/


Hamilton-- Gail Hamilton managed the development of the 64310 Analyzer and earlier contributed to the development of the 8085 and 6502 personality modules for the 1611A.  These were key tools for the PC designers of the day, since the 8085 and 6502 were the mainstay chips for PCs.   She later was VP for Compaq, Symantec, and on the Arrow Board.   See HPJ June 1984, and https://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/people/person.asp?personId=506168&privcapId=313734    The significance of the HP64310 was that it was the tool that established RISC architecture performance vastly outstripped CISC, and now is the mainstay of all PC chips.





Should any of these be featured in your exhibit as I interpret what you seek?


Bedke, Conway, Castro, Goldberg, and Hamilton


The rest are names in arcana, hardly significant enough for your question.   I wish there were many more.


Best regards, 

Chuck House

InnovaScapes Institute

CHM Trustee 

ACM History Committee Chair




On 4/9/18, 7:44 AM, "Members on behalf of George Keremedjiev" <members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org on behalf of director at compustory.com> wrote:


    Hello to all. My first posting.


    Our museum is opening on June 1st a major exhibit on women in computing.



    Does anyone know of any personal computer hardware women engineers in the 1975-1985 era (+/-) who we should consider including in the exhibit? For example, women members of the Homebrew Club and/or employees at, for example - Apple, HP, Atari, Commodore, Tandy, Intel, TI, IBM, Xerox, etc. - who were hardware engineers and involved in the design of computer hardware components including microchips.


    The key term is hardware.


    Thank you in advance for your consideration and possible help with the above!





    George Keremedjiev


    American Computer & Robotics Museum

    Bozeman, MT




    Sent from my iPhone




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