The planet was quarantined and everyone was able to keep their jobs directly from their home because there are devices that allow us this magic of information and communication in a virtual universe, immune to coronavirus and physical distance. Behind these devices, there is a lot of history and many people, engineers, and brilliant technicians, without whom we would still be living the paradigms of the Victorian Era of the late 1800s.
The new profession
Currently, IT professionals are in high regard and are almost the heroes of our time, receiving high salaries and responsible for maintaining the large technological park we use in our daily lives, on cell phones, TVs, laptops, automobiles, drones and other connected objects of our time, including Programmers, Security Specialists, Hardware Engineers, Infrastructure Specialists, Artificial Intelligence Specialists, Cloud Managers, Data Architects, Agile and Scrum Specialists, DevOps Specialists, etc. But it was not always so.
The first “computers” were about 200 women who worked, since the 1920s, at the University of Pennsylvania, in the United States, responsible for performing mathematical calculations with the existing mechanical calculators, used in scientific studies and especially in calculating ballistic tables for the military. This was one of the few technical jobs available to women at this time. Subsequently, in 1946, six leading programmers (Kay McNulty, Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Meltzer, Fran Bilas, and Ruth Lichterman) were called in to build, maintain and work loading data onto the newly invented computer ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer ).
Yes, "computer" was the title of the professional who performed calculations with mechanical calculators and later with the help of electronic gadgets. And unlike today, the vast majority of these professionals were women, computers. The evolution of analytical machines and for processing mathematical calculations happened very quickly and in about 20 years companies, government and financial institutions had already dominated. These extremely powerful machines were called Mainframes. In the 50s and 60s, they dominated the IT area in large corporations. Still in use today, mainframes are able to offer processing services to thousands of users through thousands of terminals connected directly or over a network.
The Personal Micro Computer
When Informatics, as we know it today, was stillborn, in the early 1980s, late 70s, a time when so-called Personal Computers groped its placement on the market, some nerds, actually born engineers, endowed with an incredible capacity for abstraction and creativity, formed the basis for the information technology industry. In the vicinity of Stanford University, in the San Francisco, California, United States, place that became known as The Silicon Valley, where the silica chip factories flourished and where there was also a great military activity, a group of fans of electronics and some competent technicians, created the Homebrew Computer Club, with the objective of gathering information and discussing how to develop computing devices. Among them were Gordon French and Fred Moore, the club’s founders. In March 1975, the launch of the Altair microcomputer led to the group’s first meeting and inspired Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs to develop the Apple I and Apple II, the origin of Apple Inc. which today produces the Mac, the iPhone and is considered one of the bastions of computer science, together with Microsoft, of Bill Gates, which also started at this time. Gates realized the great opportunity that was emerging with the nascent Software industry and with the support of IBM he proposed the establishment of a universal hardware standard, the personal computer, separating software, the programs that run on the machine, the hardware, the physical part, as opposed to the Apple paradigm, which considered that a certain software should only work on certain hardware, being therefore inseparable. Gates then developed a new language, Basic, present in all devices built within this new standard, using the IBM system, CPM, and a few years later using MS-DOS and then, in the mid-1980s, Windows.
Freedom, Linux and how to help a friend
About ten years later, in 1982, Richard Stallman, a then technician, and intern, who worked with printers at the University of Massachusetts (MIT), realized the pitfall that was being created by keeping system licenses under the ownership of companies. software companies, in this case, the UNIX system from SCO (Santa Cruz Operation), so that only licensed technicians could access them. Faced with a problem he faced at the university printer and solving the problem by discovering the source of the error and correcting it via reverse engineering, Stallman then decided to call his friend, who had written the defective codes, to show him the little bug and amazement, he hears from his friend that they could not be talking about this because the licensing of the software did not allow the disclosure of any details of the system to anyone. The friendship between the two then ended pathetically, given the question that Stallman dared to ask: “I’m just trying to help. What is more important? Our friendship or a contract that prevents you from talking about your job? ”. In the coming years, Stallman wrote an alternative UNIX system, containing all important utilities, named it the GNU System and licensed it under the GPL (GNU Public License) which then presented the 4 basic freedoms that a fair system should offer:
1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom # 0)
2. The freedom to study how the program works and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a prerequisite for this freedom.
3. The freedom to redistribute copies so that you can help your neighbor (freedom # 2).
4. The freedom to improve the program and release its improvements, so that the whole community benefits from them (freedom # 3). Access to the source code is a prerequisite for this freedom.
These 4 freedoms or rights established the basis for the paradigm known as Free Software, which enabled the creation of Linux by the then Finnish student Linus Torvalds and the entire range of applications that we know today on the Internet. In fact, the Android system, the most used on the planet, as well as almost all of the Internet’s infrastructure were created under this license, which understands Software as a form of science and not just as a mere product in a world where commerce is the practice.
A connected world
Currently, in addition to personal and mobile devices, the communication infrastructure depends on the existence of the computer network. In the 1980s it was not as obvious as it is today that the Internet would be so important. It was discussed whether the personal computer should make use of the international network, which exists only in universities, research institutes and in the banking / financial system, which already used ATM electronic terminals (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) for withdrawing money and deposits, Microsoft’s Windows systems do not have an implementation of network protocols. The first PCs could not connect to the internet or the BBS (Bulletin Board System), so via telephone, without installing an external program, called Trumpet Winsock, a network stack based on the network system created at the University of Berkley.
Free applications, Linux, BSD (Berkley Software Distribution), and others have become market standards and it is no longer possible for the world network to exist without its use. The so-called Cloud depends on the complex Orchestration of distributed computational instances, working in great harmony, involving the billions of personal and physical devices, and billions of other virtual devices in the form of applications on the Web, on the telephone network and Wifi. Despite the evil that we suffer from fake news, the world network is our salvation, what would be of us, intrinsically gregarious and affective humans, in this moment of isolation, if we didn’t have texts like this, which is already ending, the streamings, social networks, lives and chats that encourage us, bringing the distant closer, making us nomads without having to leave our homes.