Andrew Pollack's Blog

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My Mother-In-Law the Computer

By Andrew Pollack on 10/16/2007 at 11:39 AM EDT

People have histories that you never really consider deeply enough. I had a really interesting conversation with my wife's mother over the weekend. She had asked about the route I'd planned to take, as I needed to go from her place on the coast up to Bangor where Coryn had a soccer game. I answered that I didn't know; I'd just plugged in the field's address on the GPS, and it told me I'd need about two hours to get there. I would do what it said and get there within a few minutes of that estimate.

Instead of the expected discussion, what I got in response was instead a story of some of the work she'd done back in the day -- I think just following WWII. She'd worked at MIT. The story details filled in over the course of a few minutes, but the gist of is that she'd worked directly for Dr. Charles Draper while he was working on his gyroscopic guidance systems. She remembered him as both brilliant and charming. "A man who could solve an equation on the blackboard, or tell a dirty joke." She recalled specifically listening with him and a few others in a room to the radio from a flight in which for the first time the pilot took off and landed blindfolded - I assume meaning instruments only - then all in the room popping the cork on a bottle of Champagne. Her job at the time was entering start chart data -- I didn't ask at the time what she entered it into, but I'm planning to ask more later. They used to call these pools of human number crunchers by the job title "Computer". That's what they did. The Computed.

So it turns out my Mother-In-Law, not the most tech-savvy person I've met to be sure, was actually a Computer.


There are  - loading -  comments....

re: My Mother-In-Law the ComputerBy Mary Beth Raven on 10/16/2007 at 10:21 PM EDT
Wow, there must be something in the autumn air... you discdovering this about
your mother-in-law, me finding "v-mail"...


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