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Lab Coats and Lace - Kay McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, (1921-2006), Computing Pioneer

  • 2 March 2019

One of a selection of women featured in "Lab Coats and Lace, the lives and legacies of inspiring Irish women scientists and pioneers"

Donegal-born mathematician, Kathleen ‘Kay’ McNulty Mauchly Antonelli (1921-2006), was one of six ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) women who learned to program the first digital computer, built for the US military during World War II. With no manual, they had to understand how the machine was built and worked, and together they helped to inaugurate the field of modern computing.

ENIAC’s first big calculation took one million punch cards and one month to complete. For its first public demo of shorter calculations, a panel of light bulbs was rigged up to flash while the computer was working for a “modestly flashy but generally meaningless show”, the inspiration for many a science fiction film.