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.
Much of the historiography of gender in computing relies on an implicit understanding of the power of heteronormativity in structuring women’s lives and careers.
Up to this point, however, historians of computing have paid relatively little attention to the ways in which sexuality molded outcomes and determined patterns of change in the history of computing.
In addition, employing women on overnight shift work with men was perceived as unseemly.
Heterosexual men’s career requirements, as well as their fantasies and fears about women’s sexuality, often shaped how women were viewed in machine rooms and whether or not they were allowed to work in certain jobs at all.
The operators who made this possible in the Anglo-American world tended to be women.
The machines, on the other hand, were coded as masculine and aligned with the male innovators who designed them.
It shows that, contrary to what was previously believed, the first computerized dating system in either the US or the UK was run by a woman.
For Valentine’s Day, 1961, the cartoonist Charles Addams—of Addams Family fame—drew a futuristic cover for the New Yorker.
But the reason that it was making an appearance on the cover of the New Yorker almost a decade later had less to do with the specific computer in question, and more to do with what computer technology was coming to represent by the early 1960s: a potential challenge to the capacities and talents of human beings. By the early 1960s, mainframes had crept into the popular consciousness through news reports and advertising.