The Face Of A "Computer" From 1946

Great profile of Eleanor Kolchin, who started working as a computer programmer for IBM in 1946, using a calculation machine the size of a sofa that could only do arithmetic.

“The machines could only add, subtract, divide and multiply, and that’s what we’d do. When someone gave me a differential equation—which you couldn’t put directly into the machine—I could tell you how to solve it arithmetically and then enter it into the machine. The machine would punch out answers on a punch card.”

Kolchin also worked from home during the 1950s, writing out Fortran programs by hand and mailing them on paper to NYU. Let me tell you, as an IT person… that is no joke. Debugging a program relies heavily on trial and error; I can’t imagine the frustration of trying to do it through mail.