My mother, the Computer


40 years ago, my mother was a Computer.

No, she was not an ENIAC or UNIVAC or any such room-sized piece of hardware. (Although some of my friends might think that this explains a lot about my personality.) This is my mother we're talking about here!

Instead, she assisted aerospace engineers by completing computations from their designs/equations. Mom, working with a team of other human "computers", performed the math by hand (using pencil, paper, slide rule – state-of-the-art tools). She finally did gain access to a real computer (fed by punch cards) to help her with the math, but this was at the very end of her computational career – just before I was born in 1968.

(As I tell my children that Grandma used to be a "computer", I suppose they imagine her as ruling Webkinz World or reciting entertaining YouTube videos.)

Until the day I was born, Mom worked for Calspan, an engineering firm with a number of government and military contracts. 22 years later, I took my first post-college job at Calspan (purely by coincidence – Mom hadn't worked there since my birth). As a technical writer in 1990, my state-of-the-art tools were also pencil and paper. (By this time, computer systems were very much the norm and this particular work situation was simply antiquated.)

Today, a person with my Mom's job might be called a "Data Reduction Analyst", and of course the job would entail using software to perform all of the analysis. They might even use SAS or JMP to do the work. In fact, I'm certain that my Mom would insist on it.


About Author

Chris Hemedinger

Senior Manager, SAS Online Communities

+Chris Hemedinger is the manager of SAS Online Communities. Since 1993, Chris has worked for SAS as an author, a software developer, an R&D manager and a consultant. Inexplicably, Chris is still coasting on the limited fame he earned as an author of SAS For Dummies.  He also hosts the SAS Tech Talk webcasts each year from SAS Global Forum, connecting viewers with smart people from SAS R&D and the impressive work that they do.


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