The Computers Documentary
In 1946 six brilliant young women programmed the first all-electronic, programmable computer, the ENIAC, a project run by the U.S. Army in Philadelphia as part of a secret World War II project. They learned to program without programming languages or tools (for none existed)—only logical diagrams. By the time they were finished, ENIAC ran a ballistics trajectory perfectly! Yet when the ENIAC was unveiled to the press and the public in 1946, the women were never introduced… and their story was lost for decades.
For 20 years, Kathy Kleiman and the ENIAC Programmers Project have researched the ENIAC programmers’ work and recorded their oral histories. In 2013, ENIAC Programmer Project founder Kathy Kleiman teamed up with award-winning documentary producers Jon Palfreman and Kate McMahon to tell this incredible story. They have produced a stunning 20-minute documentary, The Computers, now premiering at the Seattle International Film Festival. Featuring Movietone footage of the 1940s and never-before-seen interviews with the ENIAC Programmers, this inspiring story corrects history and shows that our programming pioneers were an incredible group of women and men.
The ENIAC programmers’ feat in mastering the eight foot tall, eighty foot long black machine—with no programming languages, no compilers, not even a manual—is amazing. That they went on to dedicate their lives (in some cases) to making programming easier and accessible is an act that changed the world.