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The Brains Behind ENIAC

Did you know that the first general-purpose computer, the ENIAC, was programmed by women?

What is ENIAC?

ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) is the first programmable, general-purpose digital computer designed by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert for the U.S. Army to calculate missile trajectories. Consisting of 40 individual panels, the computer weighed 30 tons and covered an area of 1800 square feet.


What many don't know is that the programming of the ENIAC was done by six women: Frances Bilas, Betty Jennings, Ruth Lichterman, Kay McNulty, Betty Snyder, and Marlyn Wescoff. Back then, none of the programming languages and softwares existed, so computers had to be programmed by adjusting switches and cables manually. Setting thousands of 10-way switches, the women hand-wired the computer.

Forgotten History

Despite their invaluable contributions, the ENIAC programmers were not recognized for their work. Their names remained largely unknown to the public until the 1980s, when Kathy Kleiman, an undergraduate student at Harvard, came across an old picture of the ENIAC and started researching who the women in that picture were. Kathy told her story on the TEDx Talk that you can watch below.

The impact these women had on modern technology is undeniable. So next time you run or debug a program, take a moment to honor these incredible genuises who paved the path of modern programming.


Sheldon, R., & Wigmore, I. (2023, September 25). ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer). WhatIs.

The Secret History of The ENIAC Women | Kathy Kleiman | TEDxBeaconStreet. (n.d.). [Video]. YouTube.

Jones, B., & Larsen, L. (2019, March 1). Long before Gates or Jobs, 6 women programmed the first digital computer. Digital Trends.

Lightfoot, J. (2018, September 21). Introducing ENIAC Six: Atomic’s Room Named for the Women who Programmed the ENIAC. Atomic Spin.


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