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Math Programming Science

Rediscovering WWII's Top-Secret Computing 'Rosies' 113

Posted by Roblimo
from the better-65-years-late-than-never dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Women were recruited to do ballistics calculations and program computers during WWII. Half a century later, their work is only beginning to get recognition." Some of that recognition is in the form of a documentary film released in 2010 titled Top Secret Rosies.
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Rediscovering WWII's Top-Secret Computing 'Rosies'

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @03:27AM (#35147846)

    These are not the calculations or research work that you are trying to make it seem. This is not the work that was done by Researcher likes Feynman and others, the "calculations" they did were simple assembly line work level. Literally, they sat around a table in long rows one would add a number pass the calculation to the next, then the next would multiply... They deserve no mention, unless you will start mentioning all the farmers and shoe makers as well, which provided the food and shoes for the soldiers during WWII.

  • Yes well..... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @04:30AM (#35148132)

    Its an education thing - nowadays subjects like History and Geography are not seen as "relevant" to a school curriculum and "reading about" at University level isn't such a high priority, when all that is required to graduate is to regurgitate lecture notes and anyway reading gets in the way of drinking, etc, so its not surprising that Erickson had "never heard about this".

    And "womens history" is a rather narrow field, it ignores half of humanity at a stroke (apart from casting them as abusers, rapists and general ogres) so the level of ignorance is not surprising.

    And of course, the human computors would be organised as a distributed processing system, each responsible for what in effect would be a subroutine in the process that resulted in a complete ballistic computation. Its just repetitive work, after all. My regard would be reserved for the people who produced the work schemes in the first place - they were the real programmers!

    And programming ENIAC?

    More rote work, wiring up plugboards. Essential but not groundbreaking.

    Both men and women performed essential war work at all levels in both Britain and the US. They ALL deserve recognition for a job that shouldn't have needed doing. Singling out an individual group does a disservice to the rest.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @06:44AM (#35148596)

    Of course, past glories are pleasant to remember -- especially if the war was won; but even so otherwise.

    Of course, acknowledgement is important, if not more then at least for the sake of thanking those whose efforst saved our a, erm, lives. This is particularly useful when we realize such important tasks were done by women, who traditionally are scorned as being less endowed as their male equivalents. Obviously this example sets an important illustration of gender irrelevance (in fact, the exact opposite could be argued: that men are more expendable).

    But something important is being forgotten: war is wrong. It would be immensely better, if at all possible, to gain the enemy by arguments not weapons; to make losses on our side unnecessary and thus achieve a even better outcome than that victory itself brought. The generations which lived before war could have done a better job at keeping peace. Winning a war is actually an empty victory if seen this way; but perhaps the need for better diplomacy could only have been perceived after losing so many lives.

    It's a pity we cannot learn more easily oftentimes.

  • Re:Yes well..... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by OutOfMyTree (810249) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @09:28AM (#35149394)

    Yes, you are quite right. Singling out only the men (and often only the white men) does us all a great disservice.

  • Re:Common practice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chris Mattern (191822) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @12:13PM (#35151136)

    So - how do you explain all the naval gunnery?

    They weren't on the ships. The gunners on the ships, who were indeed men, in the days before you had artillery computers (machines) had charts and tables to look up the answers in. Books of them. Who calculated those charts and tables? Women in offices hired for the task. This was the standard procedure for solving numerical problems in the days before calculating machines (slide rules were only good for about three significant digits--fine for an estimate, but no good for work that required more accuracy. Also, pre-computed references were better for involved calculations for specialized purposes (like artillery ranging)). My dad got his degree in mechanical engineering back in the '50s; I still have his slide rule--and his book of mathematical tables.

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