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Source: ICL News, 1970 Paradoxically, the same sexual strictures that hurt women’s employment chances also meant that women were ideal fodder for a new type of computing project.A growing interest in inserting new electronic computer technology into men and women’s lives as romantic middlemen was beginning to gain momentum.“There are fewer and fewer operations today that a man can do which a well educated computer cannot do faster and more accurately,” a columnist in the London Times wrote, synthesizing the growing anxiety about computers in the culture at large.Newspaper articles, which referred to computers as “giant brains” early on, often fanned the flames of competition between man and machine by comparing what a computer could do in a certain amount of time with what a person could do.The article connects this history to other examples in the history of technology that show how technological systems touted as “revolutionary” often help entrenched structural biases proliferate rather than breaking them down.

” But the reason LEO’s computer operator jobs were earmarked for men had everything to do with the particular career opportunities they afforded, rather than having anything to do with women’s needs.It showed a massive, wall-sized computer, with hundreds of blinking lights, ejecting a tiny paper card with a red heart on it for its operator, who was dwarfed by the computer’s hulking form.The drawing of the computer was supposedly based on the huge SSEC (Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator) mainframe that IBM had shown off in its Madison Avenue showroom in New York City from 1948-1952.The idea that these masculine-identified machines might sexually harass women workers as proxies for real men often figured into jokes and cartoons of the era (see cartoon below).A reminiscence from a worker at LEO, an early British computing company—and the company which created the first dedicated electronic business computer—described how LEO bucked the norm of hiring female operators and hired men instead.

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