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Reminiscences of a Woman Computer Pioneer, 1962 - 2002

Interprogram manual cover, 1960

Image: Interprogram manual cover, 1960

Source: Museum Victoria

I did write some programs for CSIRAC, both in a third year physics course and in a third year maths course for which Trevor Pearcy was the lecturer. We used Interprogram in the maths course, but I vaguely recall the physics course focused on the machine language. This was in 1962.

In 1963 I began my career in computing, beginning as a programmer for EDP Australia Pty Ltd, which was a subsidiary of an accounting firm (but I don't remember the name of the firm). We used the first Burroughs computer in Australia, and most of the work (at least initially) was processing data recorded on paper tape by Burroughs accounting machines to produce sales analyses. I later worked for ADAPS, another service bureau, which used IBM 1400 series computers while I was with them (1965-1966). I did contract programming for a few years while my children were small (one could sit at home and write programs then too, with pencil and coding pad rather than a PC), and later worked for the CCAE in Wagga, a service bureau in that city, and for BHP in Newcastle, where my last position was as Data Administrator in 1981-1982. Since then I have been a consultant in Canberra, first with Koranya, then Arthur Young (now Ernst and Young), and since 1989 as an independent. My major interest in the past decade has been in the area of applications architecture. I use high level object oriented analysis to determine the best way to partition information processes in an organisation into major application modules. It is a technique which obviates re-use rather than solving that sticky problem.

Hope all this is of some interest. It shows how CSIRAC stimulated an interest which resulted in a long career in computing for at least one person.

As for memories of CSIRAC, they are vague, but can probably be brought to the surface. The very frequent breakdowns and constant replacing of the valves; fixing mistakes in a punch paper tape by refilling the holes; playing tunes, which we thought of as a gimmick, not as the start of a new type of music. For me the magic of the computer has always been the facility it provides to store logical processes of my own devising, and so have the machine enhance my own slow mental processes.

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