Women have had a large impact on the way the Internet looks and works, from ensuring your URL connects to the right path to designing some familiar icons. It was hard to narrow this down, but we found five women we think deserve some recognition for their contributions to the digital world as we know it.
1. Radia Perlman
Radia Perlman is often called The Mother of the Internet, though she isn’t a fan of that nickname. She earned it, though, thanks to her contributions to the infrastructure of the Web. Perlman created the spanning-tree protocol (STP) while working at Digital Equipment Corporation. STP is the bridge that prevents loops among computer networks by blocking links in an Ethernet network.
She even wrote a poem called “Algorhyme” to help us all understand exactly what it does.
STP has been used prevent network outages for decades. More recently Perlman helped develop TRILL, the data interconnection network designed to replace spanning-tree protocol.
Perlman has penned books on network design and computer programming and earned Lifetime Achievement awards from the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Data Communication and Usenix for her contributions to the field.
2. Mitchell Baker
“TIME” named Mitchell Baker one of the 100 most influential people in the world under the “Scientists and Thinkers” category in 2005 and it’s no surprise as to why.
Netscape Communications Corporation hired Baker in the early ‘90s to help secure intellectual property protection for their new browser. Though initially hired to deal with legal issues, she ended up helping spearhead the Mozilla Project. The project was responsible for the creation of the Firefox Web browser, Firefox OS, and the Thunderbird email client.
Baker used her position with Mozilla as the general manager, or Chief Lizard Wrangler, to organize a worldwide group of designers and inventors who work together to bring new ideas to the Internet. She currently operates a blog where she discusses her efforts to maintain freedom on the Internet and keep people up to date on the latest happenings at Mozilla, which she continues to work with.
3. Susan Kare
Kare was one of the original designers working alongside Steve Jobs while developing the first Macintosh computer. A member of Macintosh’s design team took art classes with Kare in high school and remembered her impressive work. She used that connection to secure a place on the team.
One of her first designs was the famous “paste” icon. In fact, she’s responsible for many of the digital icons and typefaces we still use on Apple computers. You can thank her for the trash icon down in your navigational bar. She also created the Chicago typeface font you’ll find on most Macs and iPhone products.
After leaving Apple, Kare went on work at Microsoft and helped design the interface for Windows 3. Kare worked alongside Jobs again in 1985, when she was the Creative Director for NeXT. She even dipped her hands into Facebook and created some of the designs we see on there, including the Gifts images and the virtual kiss icon.
Nowadays you can find Kare settled in San Francisco running her own well-earned design firm. She also maintains a site where you can buy signed prints of some of her famous icons, like a portrait of Steve Jobs.
4. Grace Hopper
Hopper, a Harvard mathematician who joined the Navy during World War II, developed a computer language called FLOW-MATIC. She believed binary code made computers inaccessible to most programmers. She wanted to up the game by allowing more people to enter the field and contribute different designs and ideas, and she succeeded.
Using her original design she encouraged programmers to develop the Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL) and helped ensure its use around the world. She’s the reason we can all read and see the Internet as more than just green, binary digits.
Hopper went on to become the first woman to receive the National Medal of Technology in 1991 after decades of honorable military service. She passed away in 1992, but her legacy lives on in the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. This is the largest gathering of women technologists in the world and it provides scholarships to up-and-comers as well as offers a meeting place for women to share new ideas.
5. Elizabeth Feinler
When you’re online, you are used to seeing a .com or .net at the end of a website address, which signifies what type of site it is. When you see a .gov at the end of a domain you know it’s a government-run site, while .edu is for schools and .org usually covers non-profits.
Elizabeth Feinler is the woman responsible for creating these Internet URLs.
Before developing this naming system, Feinler worked as Director of the Stanford Research Institute from 1972 to 1989. While there, she managed ARPANET, the first network capable of connecting computers across the globe. She also helped create a directory for different people and organizations, known as the Host Naming Registry.
Her accomplishments led to her appointment as Delegate at Large for the White House Conference on Libraries and Information Centers. She also helped found the Internet Engineering Task Force, an international group of designers, operators and researchers dedicated to continuing the advancement and operation of the Internet.
She now volunteers at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. The museum houses over 350 boxes of Feinler’s own archival works.
Without these brilliant women, there’s no telling what the Internet would look like today. These talented individuals gave us the ability to create unique domain names as well as designs that make staring at a Mac all day at work a little easier on the eye.
Photo Credit: Ann Rhomey/AdWeek
Ben Kerns is a fan of all things related to technology and the Internet, especially when it comes to discovering new ways to further merge the two together. When he's not plugged in, he enjoys the great outdoors, healthy living, and singing off-tune to cheesy country songs.
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