Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet

by Claire L. Evans

Hardcover, 2018




Portfolio (2018), 288 pages


"The history of technology you probably know is one of men and machines, garages and riches, alpha nerds and brogrammers. But the little-known fact is that female visionaries have always been at the vanguard of technology and innovation--they've just been erased from the story. Until now. Women are not ancillary to the history of technology; they turn up at the very beginning of every important wave. But they've often been hidden in plain sight, their inventions and contributions touching our lives in ways we don't even realize. VICE reporter and YACHT lead singer Claire L. Evans finally gives these unsung female heroes their due with her insightful social history of the Broad Band, the women who made the internet what it is today. Learn from Ada Lovelace, the tortured, imaginative daughter of Lord Byron, who wove numbers into the first program for a mechanical computer in 1842. Seek inspiration from Grace Hopper, the tenacious mathematician who democratized computing by leading the charge for machine-independent programming languages after World War II. Meet Elizabeth "Jake" Feinler, the one-woman Google who kept the earliest version of the Internet online, and Stacy Horn, who ran one of the first-ever social networks on a shoestring out of her New York City apartment in the 1980s. Evans shows us how these women built and colored the technologies we can't imagine life without. Join the ranks of the pioneers who defied social convention and the longest odds to become database poets, information-wranglers, hypertext dreamers, and glass ceiling-shattering dot com-era entrepreneurs. This inspiring call to action is a revelation: women have embraced technology from the start. It shines a light on the bright minds whom history forgot, and shows us how they will continue to shape our world in ways we can no longer ignore. Welcome to the Broad Band. You're next"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Gwendydd
This is a very interesting account of the women who were influential in shaping computing and the internet as we know them today. There are many unsung heroines in the history of computing, and it's good to see someone tell their stories. As a woman who works in technology today, I had a lot of bittersweet "what if" moments - what if a group of men hadn't gotten together and decided that programming should be called "engineering"? What if the women who programmed ENIAC had gotten the full credit they deserved - would the field have been more friendly for women? What if Mattel hadn't bought up all the video games that were being marketed to girls and shut them down?

Evans does walk a fine line around issues of women's innate abilities. She often hints that women are innately better at things like communicating and networking. The chapter about games for video games is especially egregious here. She does not address the fact that there is no way of knowing whether women are innately better at these things: women are socialized to be better at them. The idea that one gender is better than another at anything is really dangerous in this context.

Aside from that, this is an engaging book and tells some really important stories.
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LibraryThing member pbirch01
When I picked up this book I was expecting an overview of the making of TCP/IP and how women were more involved in the initial creation than most people thought. Unfortunately, this was not that book - it is a bunch of stories about women involved at various stages of the development the internet and computing as we know it today. To be fair, perhaps the author did not choose the title of this book. The author is quite well-versed in the subject matter and she does add a great amount of levity to what could be slightly tedious material under a lesser skilled author. I had heard of some but not all of these stories and the ones I had heard before it was nice to hear a different viewpoint. One example is that I feel Grace Hopper has been somewhat idolized and Evans presents a picture of Hopper warts and all. Also, it was interesting to read about all of the competing ideas and paths that ultimately lead to the modern web browser. This was an enjoyable book for the most part and the author writes a line at the end which I feel is an excellent metaphor: "The more diversity there is at the table, the more interesting the result onscreen, the more human". Indeed, in an era such as now when the tech giants are predominantly white males, we need diversity now more than ever.… (more)
LibraryThing member laze
An engaging look at the history of women in tech (not just the Internet) through about 2000. Learned a look.
LibraryThing member ajlewis2
There are some great stories about dynamite women in this book. I had heard of the first few like Grace Hopper, but the book goes well beyond that time and into the Intranet itself. This is a very readable story of the progress in use of computers. It's not about the machines, but about what was done with them and it is from the perspective of women. Some of these folks are pretty wild characters who had ideas and drive. One woman put together the ARPANET Resource Handbook on paper that listed all the available nodes to contact--no Google search in those days. Lots of other contributions I'd never thought of as well. Turns out that women were important in making the Internet. And even aside from the story of women, this book is very instructive on just how the Intranet came about without killing you with technical jargon. In fact, it is a very fun read.… (more)
LibraryThing member AnaraGuard
A fascinating account of women programmers, designers, pioneers in ways that you might not imagine. The early days of the internet were of most interest to me, before commercialization took over, before social media turned us into the products sold to advertisers. As the author describes it: "this sprawl, this refractory, intractable explosion of information, connections, and people". Other than the first two chapters which focus on Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper, none of these women are household names but that in no way lessens their achievements and accomplishments. A fast read and one does not need to be a "techie" to understand the book.… (more)
LibraryThing member DoesNotCompute
Fabulous book, easy to read page-turner. It is ironic that much of early computing was the work of women because it was not considered of sufficient importance for men. In the early days of mechanical or electronic computers, men engineered and built the machines and proved they worked. Then they realized the machine must be programmed to actually do something, but the men were ready to move on to the build the next machine, so they found some women to do the programming. This pattern did not stop with the Mark I, or the ENIAC, or even over the Atlantic in Great Briton. All along the way from WW II to the WWW, women have had surprising roles in "network" communities, the ARPAnet and into Internet.… (more)
LibraryThing member nossanna
I enjoyed the beginning of this book, recounting the work by women in early programming, hardware and pre-browser/web history. After that section, the book lagged some in describing dot com era endeavors. But if you are interested in women in tech or computer history, this is an excellent dose of "back story" that most of us don't know.… (more)


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Physical description

288 p.; 6.5 inches


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