Response to “Her Code Got Humans To The Moon — And Invented Software Itself”

Great article — I love it when women who have impacted the world in one way or another are talked about and given credit for the tremendous work they have done. It reminded me of the movie “Hidden Figures” released a month ago that tells the story of three African-American women whose knowledge and brilliance as engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists at NASA helped launch astronaut John Glenn into orbit during the Space Race in 1961. Watching the movie and reading this article helped me visualize the tasks that Margaret Hamilton was performing – “punching holes in stacks of punch cards” which are then processed overnight “on a giant Honeywell mainframe computer”.  Computers units back then occupied a whole room and an array of complex techniques to get them started alone.

It was interesting to read that Hamilton created an add-on program to debug the code used to land astronaut back on earth but her superiors chose to discard her idea and claimed that “That would never happen”. The same dynamics presented in this article were portrayed in “Hidden Figures” (you should all watch it by the way – a truly amazing movie) and result from a belief of people at that time that machines were quicker and much superior to human brains that they would never make errors. This conviction resulted in a blind trust for machines which led to comments like the ones highlighted in the articles. Yet, machines did generate errors, something that always came as a surprise to many and it took people like Hamilton and Katherine Johnson to avoid space tragedy and support what was to be one of the greatest achievements of mankind.