Women in Technology: Roberta Williams

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Roberta Williams is one of the most influential PC game designers of the 80’s & 90’s and has been credited with creating the graphic adventure genre. Sierra On-Line, later known as Sierra Entertainment was the name of the company Roberta & her husband Ken WIlliams  founded.

Williams’ games taught logic and problem-solving skills, but made it seem like an adventure the entire time, in much the same way that gamification transforms ordinary things like, location check-ins, into an exciting quest to collect digital badges.

You can see  Roberta’s ideas and concepts in other gaming genres, like fighting games that almost always include a “quest” mode where the fighter must battle his way through to seal his victory.

Women in Technology: Susan Kare

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Susan Kare was the designer who helped bring the Apple computer to life with her typography and iconic graphic design skills. She shaped many of the now-common interface elements of the Mac, like the command icon. She also created the Happy Mac icon, which greeted Apple users when they booted their machines, and the trash can icon. Susan’s efforts to make the computer feel more like a friend, and less like a machine.Kare’s design work didn’t stop with Apple, her designs can be seen in many of Facebook’s “digital gifts,” including the friendly rubber ducky.

Women in Technology: Barbara Askins

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Barbara Askins was a NASA chemist at the famed Marshall Space Flight Center. There she was challeneged with the task of inventing a way to improve astronomical and geological photos taken from space. The current photos  were often fuzzy and lacked definition.

Barbara’s invention involved the use of radioactive materials to enhance negatives. It turned out that these radioactive materials could also be used to enhance images even after the pictures had been developed. Barbara received a patent for her invention in 1978 and her method was used by NASA with great success.

Her invention was also adopted outside of NASA for a variety of other uses, including improving the clarity of x-rays and restoring old photographs. Barbara was honored as the National Inventor of the Year in 1978.

Women in Technology: Hedy Lamarr

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Hedy Lamarr played a key role in the invention of spread-spectrum technology. She conceptualizing the idea of frequency hopping, which is sending radio signals from different frequency channels.

Lamarr and her co-inventor, George Antheil, developed the technology to help the Navy remotely control torpedoes. The randomized channel switching made of frequency hopping made it difficult for outside agents to understand what was being communicated.

Her work on spread-spectrum has played a part in many modern wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and led to her being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.

Women in Technology: Dr. Grace Hopper

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Dr. Gace Hopper was a U.S. Navy Admiral that helped invent some the the early programming languages. She is most famously associated with the Common Business-Oriented Language (COBOL), which was based on the FLOW-MATIC language that she designed back in 1958. Hopper was convinced that if programming were produced in a form that anyone could read, then there would be more programmers. It turns out that she was right.

She is also known for being the firdt to use the term “debugging” for fixing computer problems/glitches.