March 23, 2010 · Blog1287 · Posted by Greg Lloyd
For the second annual Ada Lovelace Day, March 24, 2010 - celebrating women in science and technology - I've chosen to write about Frances E. Allen, IBM Fellow, Turing Award winner and pioneer in the theory and practice of optimizing compilers.
According to her Wikipedia biography, Fran Allen grew up on a farm in update New York.
I first learned about Fran's work from Dick Merwin, then my boss at the Safeguard System Office, and former Engineering Manager of the IBM Stretch /
Very early in her career Fran played a crucial role in creating computer languages and compiler optimization techniques for the NSA's HARVEST system (which used Stretch technology) which Fran described in a Nov 2000 interview:
From abstract: " In response to government requests, IBM Research designed a system for a very large data processing application, known as the HARVEST system, including Stretch, which was delivered to the National Security Agency in the early 1960s.
The combined Stretch-HARVEST Project created a milieu for developing new technologies, new hardware architectures, and new software to meet the challenges of both systems. One of the guiding principles of the project was to make programming easier by the use of a compiler to generate code automatically from statements in the user's language.
Allen was a member of the ALPHA language design team which created a very high level language featuring, among other things, the ability to create new alphabets beyond the system defined alphabets (e.
g. English, decimal, integer, binary) and treat complex, heterogeneous data in high-level statements. In addition to an overview of Stretch-HARVEST, the talk will describe some of the lesser known aspects of the project the people and institutions involved, the political climate, and the shared knowledge, views, and value systems which were part of this interesting project at an interesting time in the history of computing. "
Stretch HARVEST compiler lecture by Fran Allan | Film | Computer History Museum
And finally: "Allen, 74, thinks women were more prevalent when she started her career--in 1959, three of her four IBM co-managers were women--than they are today.
Footnote: I tip my hat to IBM for its early leadership in fair, progressive employment and promotion policies that encouraged recruiting, recognition and promotion of highly qualified women, minorities and others who suffered from discrimination.
Order shirts or mugs with the Ada Lovelace Day art (shown above) by Sidney Padua, author of The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage - a free Web comic you'll surely enjoy.