Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Rocket Girls/ Nathalia Holt/ 338 pages
Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt traces the history of the Joint Propulsion Lab computers. Not the current microchip bolstered version. No Holt takes us back to the original computers. Young women with strong math skills and a love of mathematics. These early computers, yes they were called computers, worked on tissue thin paper with mechanical pencils solving complex problems that put the US into the Space Race. Along the way, some dropped out to start families only to return to the work place later. Some were present for the early failures and few successes as the US rushed to catch up to the Soviet Union. Eventually the pencils gave way to mechanical calculators, room size computers filled with tubes and finally person desk top computers. Along the way the engineers almost always preferred the calculations done by the women over the machines. This is an interesting read that combines flight test, space travel, and interplanetary travel into the tale of women in the workplace.