Before Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, six women played a crucial role in programming the first digital computer. These unsung heroes of computing history include Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Kathleen Johnson, Margaret Hamilton, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan.

Ada Lovelace is often credited with writing the world’s first algorithm. In 1843, she translated Charles Babbage’s sketches of a mechanical general-purpose computer into a series of notes that described how the machine could be programmed to perform a wide range of tasks. Lovelace’s vision of computers as universal machines capable of solving complex problems was decades ahead of her time.

Grace Hopper, who died in 1992, was a computer scientist who played a pivotal role in developing the first compiler and helped standardize COBOL (COmmon Business Oriented Language), one of the earliest programming languages. She also worked on the Harvard Mark I, the world’s first electronic digital computer.

Kathleen Johnson, who passed away in 2014, was a mathematician and physicist who helped launch NASA’s first satellite, Explorer 1, into space. She calculated the trajectory of the rocket, which allowed it to reach its intended orbit.

Margaret Hamilton was the lead mathematician on the Apollo program, where she developed and implemented the software for the Lunar Module, which allowed astronauts to land on the moon. She also worked on the guidance system for the first manned spacecraft, Friendship 7.

Mary Jackson was an aeronautical engineer who worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center and played a crucial role in the development of the guidance and navigation systems for the Gemini program. She was also the first African-American female engineer at NASA.

Dorothy Vaughan, who passed away in 2018, was an electrical engineer who worked on the James Webb Space Telescope project and helped integrate African-American engineers into NASA’s workforce.

These women’s contributions to computing history should not be forgotten. They paved the way for modern programming languages and computer science, and their impact can still be seen today in our daily lives. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let us honor these pioneers who made computing possible for all of us.

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