NYT-“MEN invented the internet”

What a steaming turd of an opening line in David Streitfeld's otherwise serviceable New York Times piece about the Ellen Pao/Kleiner Perkins sexual harassment lawsuit, and gender discrimination in Silicon Valley.

Here's the opening graf (bold-ing, mine):

MEN invented the Internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolized Mr. Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died. Nerds. Geeks. Give them their due. Without men, we would never know what our friends were doing five minutes ago.

You guys, ladies suck at technology and the New York Times is ON IT.

Radia "Mother of the Internet" Perlman and the ghosts of RADM Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace and every woman who worked in technology for the past 150 years frown upon you, sir. Women may have been invisible, but the work we did laid the groundwork for more visible advancements now credited to more famous men.

"Men are credited with inventing the internet." There. Fixed it for you.

I ragequit this article like, 10 times, and couldn't get past that awful opening line. But eventually, I managed to put down my frying pan and unbunch my apron, and I sat down on my princess tuffet and asked a man to help me read the whole thing.

I appreciate that in this article, Mr. Streitfeld is advancing a public conversation about gender inequality in the tech industry. Reporting about a phenomenon many would prefer to deny, and including women's voices in that conversation (though many of them sound too afraid of retaliation by potential male funders to be candid)—that's a good thing. Pointing out how rare it is that this sort of sex discrimination lawsuit makes it to trial is also a good thing.

I know that headlines aren't always written by the reporter, so I can't fault Streitfeld for the abominable one used for this article in the Times print edition: "A Lawsuit Shakes Foundation of a Man’s World of Tech." Go ahead, throw up in your mouth a little. I did.

I know that photo captions aren't always written by the reporter either, so I can't fault him for the lack of logic behind this one:

Ellen Pao, a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has filed a lawsuit contending sexual harassment. The suit has surprised some people in Silicon Valley because Kleiner Perkins is among relatively few such firms there to routinely hire and promote women.

Well, duh. If a VC firm does not hire any women VCs, then there are no women VCs at the firm to sexually harass.

There's a lot of other interesting but to my mind, tangential stuff in the body of the piece about the sexuality of Ms. Pao's husband, and accusations of litigiousness and sexual harassment on his part. And, a sweet but even more tangential quote from his ex-boyfriend, who sounds like a real mensch with a kind heart. I'm not sure why an accounting of the behavior of a woman's husband is so often needed to tell the woman's story. The reverse is not common.

But the unchallenged dismissiveness of this quote is, for me, the kicker:

You don’t really hear about randiness and mistreatment of women. That doesn’t prove it’s not there, but that’s not the lore.”

The LORE? Are you fucking kidding me?

I worked in Silicon Valley, and in technology startups in other regions, and have experienced sexual harassment and gender bias. It's as normal and constant a part of the landscape as the fabled foosball tables.

Where to begin with this quote, really? First, "randiness" isn't what causes sexual harassment. Men don't pressure junior female co-workers into unwanted sex because they're "randy." And the fact that it's not in the fucking "lore" doesn't mean it's not real.

I have no special knowledge about the truth, or lack thereof, in the Pao lawsuit. I know only what you and I and everyone else can read in the court documents, in the context of what I've experienced as a woman who has worked in the technology industry for about 20 years. I can't speak to the merit of this case. But, Earth to dudes: yes, this stuff is real and normal, and so are we.

Lucky for Streitfeld, and the rest of the world, that the Women in Technology conference happens to be under way today in Santa Clara. Stop by and get a clue.

Oh, and? I, too, cried when Steve Jobs died. And I still idolize Mr. Spock.


      1.  Our word “hero” comes from the name for males who ran in competitions in honor of Hera.  Women weren’t allowed to compete.  As for being a doormat for Zeus, yeah, that’s how she was written up.  I’m reminded of Jessica Rabbit’s famous quip: “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.”

          1. And when she got mad at him, he apologized, and never did anything wrong ever again, THE END! oh wait.

        1. Nope, false etymology. The word “hero” exists in the Iliad which predates organised athletic competitions. Not to mention that the Heraean Games (the ones which were in honour of Hera) were for women only- the Olympic Games were in honour of Zeus.

  1. Apparently the bulk of Mr. Streitfield’s research into the origins of the Internet was done by watching Revenge of the Nerds and Wargames.

  2. “Men” invented the Internet because of sexism. Women were actively discouraged from pursuing careers in math, sciences, and computers at many points. Having discrimination decrease the pool of available talent means less gets accomplished. Our civilization is less than it could have been because good people have been shunted away from opportunities to contribute.

  3. I really have to wonder what he was hoping to accomplish with such a myopic article. Maybe he meant to say the feminine side of men invented the internet…

  4. Gotta admire the amount of times the word “MEN” comes up. It’s like the guy actually subconsciously knows he’s wrong.

  5. In Streitfield’s world, every smart woman is just a man in disguise. And all sexual harassment is done by women when they just don’t put out enough. If it were any different, it would be in the lore.

    1. My favorite part of the whole article is that line at the end: “Christine Haughney and Jenna Wortham contributed reporting.”

      Just like the internet!

      A MAN wrote this article. There might have been a couple of women who did something minor that could be acknowledged in an endnote. (Although he doesn’t even bother to do that.)

  6. “Computers” used to BE women before there were the machines… thousands of math whizzes were employed to calculate artillery ballistics tables during World War I because most of the men were out fighting and dying in other (older) men’s wars.

  7. While Ms Hopper created computer programming languages like COBOL and FORTRAN, the history of developing and building the networking hardware and protocols that became the Internet was all male.

    1. That’s patently false. For instance, look at Hedy Lamarr, who invented “an early technique for spread spectrum communications and frequency hopping, necessary to wireless communication from the pre-computer age to the present day.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedy_Lamarr

        1. Seems like he helped with the entelechy of HER idea.
          As a side note, the military appear to have shot themselves in the foot on this one, choosing not to develop the idea until the patent had run out.

          I wonder how many other revolutionary ideas are sitting/have sat in development hell because their purveyors decided to marginalise the source in order to more easily claim it as their own?

      1. Uncharacteristically weird thread today, conflating the issue of women’s contributions to computing (which are indisputable) with the issue of who invented the internet. That’s two issues — not one — and it hinges on what precisely is the internet.  One thing it’s not is spread spectrum technology (anymore than it is a series of tubes): that’s a transport detail. So first establish what precisely the internet is (and isn’t), then proceed accordingly. Thanks!

      2. Hedy Lamarr had nothing to do with the Internet. Yes she co-invented spread spectrum radio but the Internet came out of DARPA research conducted in the 70’s.

        If you’re going to cite women involved in inventing the net, please choose examples that are applicable. Hooper and Lamarr are not.

        1. Agreed Lamarr did not contribute to the invention of the Internet. Though her spread-spectrum stuff is used in Wi-Fi, so she helped improve the Internet.

      3. Uh, dude ? The Radia Perlman Wikipedia entry was linked to *right in the article*. “She is most famous for her invention of the spanning-tree protocol (STP), which is fundamental to the operation of network bridges, while working for Digital Equipment Corporation. She also made large contributions to many other areas of network design and standardization, such as link-state protocols, includingTRILL, which she invented to correct some of the shortcomings of spanning-trees. She obtained a Bachelor’s, Master’s in Mathematics, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT.[2] Her doctoral thesis at MIT[3] addressed the issue of routing in the presence of malicious network failures.”

    2.  -19 credibility loss.  Hopper was involved in COBOL’s birth but I believe it was someone else (Backus?) at IBM who was involved in the birth of FORTRAN.

      as for developing the Internet Protocols – I’d venture to say that even if it were all male [some citation is needed] that might be because most engineering firms working for ARPA were probably in some way tied to ex-military guys which was pretty rampant in the post-WWII era,  and despite WASPs, WAVEs, and WACs being important contributors the male-dominated military of the time tended to hire guys they knew from the war(s) so it is probably an artifact of the larger cultural gender bias rather than because they were male.

      1. It was Backus.

        However, the current under-representation of women is neither continuum nor hangover from post-WWII.

        There were large numbers of women in computing at IBM and in other places.  There was also extensive recruiting and training of women in the early days, especially during the deployment of systems like SAGE when there simply weren’t enough programmers around as computing was exploding in its first two generations.

        I can testify to that with regard to my career from 1958 into the late 1970s.  Although men outnumbered women, all the way down the line, there were also seasoned women in management and executive positions in computing-relevant functions wherever I worked.  In that respect, the balance was far greater than in traditional engineering areas where the presence of female professionals was most remarkable.  Computing was a feminist haven by comparison.

        Where software development is not part of the mission of a commercial firm, I can believe that under-representation of women in strategic areas and in the IT organization has been systemic and institutionalized.  But the current dearth in technical fields strikes me as paralleling the rise of Silicon Valley and the hacker mythos, starting with personal microcomputing and continuing into the current era.

  8. You have given me a new verb: “To ragequit”. I’m not sure I can even click through. I like my head intact and un-exploded.

    I suggest the Anita Borg Institute (anitaborg.org) as another wonderful source to learn about  the historical and current contributions of women in tech. And their Grace Hopper Celebration every year (this october in Baltimore) to go meet the next generation. [Disclosure: I’m on the ABI board of advisors.]

    1. Yeah… the first time I heard ragequit was in online gaming. Tends to happen when you’ve slayed the same noob for the 10+th time.

        1. I think that was done intentionally by the author, it Is supposed to be someone telling a ghost story about a great person who was wronged by being sidelined by historians

    1. Then I assume you aren’t aware of how the NYT published articles in the early 20th century about how blacks were intellectually inferior to whites.

      It may be the paper of record but the Times has always had some level of bullshit.

  9. Even the photo caption has gross connotations:

    “The suit has surprised some people in Silicon Valley because Kleiner Perkins is among relatively few such firms there to routinely hire and promote women.”

    Why would you be surprised that one of the few places that even bothers to hire women (indicating rampant sexism in the industry) would demonstrate a hostile attitude towards women? What a huge surprise!

    1. “But, but, Kleiner Perkins gives those uppity broads jobs! What more do they want? I tell ya, women these days.”

      If I had a startup, I would inform all new hires that there is a zero-tolerance harrassment policy in the work environment. Sexist jokes would get you one polite warning. A second time would either be a private chat or a term on the spot, don’t even bother gathering up your stuff, I’ll have it sent to you in a box in the morning.

      But I also don’t think I’d be a good manager over other people in an environment like that, so the likelihood is remote.

  10. Not only did women contribute to laying the groundwork for the early Internet…now their endless naked pictures keep driving the continuous improvement of the current infrastructure as well.

  11. The problem is that to most men, the only thing in the universe of any conceivable value is a big penis. Mine is so much bigger than yours, haha! Endless prick-waving battles that have brought us to the edge of extinction more than once. And look: here are a whole bunch of people who  don’t even have a penis, how worthless! Who cares if they are the only source of future penii?

    Theodore Sturgeon had it right. The only solution is Venus Plus X.

  12. I just wanted to say thanks for the article Xeni.

    Merely speaking for myself, I’ve got a kid sister, who I helped raise since I was 12, that just graduated from Cornell and will soon be taking a job at Google for one year before going to law school. I always taught her to be extremely tough even though it created a divide.

    I’m around these kind of people all the time professionally and the machismo is thick. Since I don’t hang around the SV crowd and loved tech I expected or hoped some level of enlightenment. It’s good to know that I made the safe decision in the virtually nonexistent parenting that I had.

  13. “Christine Haughney and Jenna Wortham contributed reporting.” I love that he needed two women to help him write this sexist article.

    1. Who, the inventor of STP?  Yeah, I put STP it in my gas tank all the time, car runs great.

  14. Yes, because how subjectively attractive you find a woman decides whether she has a right to protest the validity of your view of her abilities. Perhaps you should at least attempt to face reality at some point in your limited life.

  15. How I wish my grandmother had been one of the founders of such technology. Alas, I still have to help her find the forwarding button on gmail. She’s still better than my tool-savvy grandfather who couldn’t call anyone for a week when he upgraded to an iPhone.

    1.  One of my grandfathers never made a phone call. Not once in his entire life. He died in ~2000

  16. I remember seeing Grace Hopper on David Letterman some years back. She is pretty fracking awesome. http://youtu.be/RZ0g5_NgRao

  17. Steve Jobs? WTF? He’s a businessman, not a geek. Dennis Ritchie died the same week, for crying out loud.

    1. Shhhh, you’ll disturb the Apple polishing. That blood won’t wash itself off, you know.

    2.  I know!  In addition, to add more insult to more injury, you know who else died that week who got overshadowed by Job’s death? Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth – not tech/internet/etc related, but still a very important guy in American history… :-(

  18. Did a quick look through the photos and index of _When Wizards Stayed Up Late_.  No photos of women, two women in the index: Louise Licklider (wife of J.C.R.) and Jane Heart (wife of Frank).  Jane Heart was a programmer at Lincoln Lab, but apparently didn’t work on the development of ARPAnet.  Who was the first woman to author or co-author an IETF RFC?  She deserves some recognition…

    1. I re-read When Wizards…  recently and was struck by the programmer wife who was a homemaker, or who retired from programming to homemaking.

      The example of mine, quoted above in Xeni’s tweetstream, of my Grandmother (MIT, 1920) has a similar bent: She graduated from MIT, worked for the GE company for some years, met my grandfather, married (1925), and once she had a child, she removed herself from the workforce to become a homemaker. She re-joined the workforce in 1942 or so, after the death of her father, when her kids (my Mom, her bro) were school-age children, and when the radio announcements were filled with, “Ladies, are you doing all you can for the war effort?”

      1.  My grandmother was a French teacher in high school most years, but took a break during the war to do the Rosie the Riveter thing.  (I forget what specific aircraft-industry trade she was doing, but fairly quickly she was teaching it rather than just doing production.)

  19.      All kidding aside, the lack of gender sensitivity in all the places I have worked has never ceased to surprise me.  I’ve worked with sexual harassers, victims of sexual harassment, and guys that have just plain put their foot straight in their mouths because of their uneasiness with working with females, both in factory and office environments of one of the most respected technology giants. 

         I’ve seen men (from another culture, not American) refuse to listen to female instructors, and I’ve see women make comments about men without reprisal that would have gotten a man called on the carpet if he had made them.  I’ve also seen both men and women treat such comments differently depending on who made them.  I’ve seen both men and women walked out for viewing porn on their computer (in the office). 

    Sexuality runs through our very core, despite our efforts to rise above it, and while most people can control themselves in their interactions with the opposite sex, I have to wonder if we’ll ever know a time in our lives when we’re not always reminded of the fact that our behaviors are driven by our sex drives, to the exclusion of all other considerations in the workplace.  On the other hand, I wonder if gender plays a part in other ways as well.  When my mother was in stage 4 colorectal cancer her favorite nurse was the male nurse on her floor, simply because she felt he treated her more gently and with more sensitivity than the female nurses.  I wonder if he felt he had to try harder because he was in a female-dominated field.

      That being said, since working in technology for over a decade  I have to say that I’ve worked with some amazingly talented people, of both sexes,  so when it comes to intellect, I feel there is absolutely no difference between men and women and what they are capable of in this field, whether it be in software development, hardware engineering, networking, and so on, based on the examples I’ve seen.  My sincerest respect goes to anyone who goes into a field dominated by a certain group that they don’t belong to and succeeds at it despite their obstacles.

    Sorry for the lengthy post.  The diet pill and energy drink I had an hour ago is kicking in!

  20. A Hedy Lamarr fan says ‘right on”!

    I had five  intelligent sisters, and my first major girlfriend was a brilliant Phd. who really set me straight. Wait ’till my niece gets older.  At six years of age, she was on my slightly aged desktop for a few minutes, then turned and asked me “Do you have a real computer?”  Her IQ is estimated higher than Sheldon’s supposed IQ on BBTheory.

    1. To be fair I’ve had people ask me if I have a real computer when I hand them my laptop running something other than Windows or Ubuntu…

      (Hey keep her pointed on the right path.  Kids are like sponges during those years.)

  21. BTW, the Kavli Prize has just been announced (probably the most cutting edge science prize around), and of 7 winners this year, 4 are women. Just sayin’.

  22. and the radioman says women were a curse, so men built paramount studios, and men built columbia studios, and men built … the internet

  23. One of the coolest things my mom has found during our pre-moving house gutting is a box full of cards/letters she sent to my dad during college in the mid 70’s. She made all these elaborate construction paper cards, little notes, and cute drawings.

    The best was very modern looking card with big colored dots on the front and just a sheet of dots inside. It took me a second until I realized she had written my dad a card in FORTRAN. And the modern looking grid of circles on the outside was actually a FORTRAN message too.

    I hadn’t even know she took computer science! She was a geography major (the only female major of her class in the department) but she apparently considered going into computer science. You go, my secretly dorky momma!

  24. Let us not forget Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace, the very first computer programmer, who hacked out code in 1843 on the only game in town, the babbage calculating engine

    1.  If I’m not mistaken, it was theoretical?  I don’t think anyone actually built a babbage machine until the 20th century?  I’m totally wearing my Lady Lovelace shirt right now, too.  Topical!

      1. There is the Difference Engine, and the Analytical Engine. The former was Babbage’s first design, and one was built eventually (around 1991) and performed calculations properly.

        The Analytical Engine was his second major design, and although it was never built in his lifetime, he had the design down. The Analytical Engine differs from the Difference Engine in that it has flow control and memory, and could be programmed well beyond doing polynomials. The programming language built to interact with the engine basically satisfied the requirements to be Turing-complete before Alan Turing was born.  Lady Lovelace designed algorithms against Babbage’s design specifications (I can only presume, since there wasn’t hardware to directly test it on) for the Analytical Engine.

        And for anyone not following, it’s possible to design against non-physical constructs. We can do math in our heads, right? :D

        1. Thanks!  That is a bit clearer for me.  I guess I wasn’t very clear on the differences between the two designs.    However, I wasn’t questioning her code or the fact that she was the first female programmer, but the way Mark phrased it made it seem like he meant that Babbage actually built the machine (or as you say, Machines), and she actually hacked on it, rather than had the theoretical and mathmatical concepts down…  I think in fact it makes her all the more impressive that it was all theoretical.

          And trust me, you don’t want me to do maths in my head, as I’m not very good at it… However, I’ll be a stickler for historical accuracy (just another kind of pedantry)! :-)

          1. Forgive me if I overexplained just slightly, I was kind of spreading around a bit of knowledge about Babbage’s engines and decided to just continue the flow into talking about Lovelace as a way of actually responding to your question in a way that finished in under 7,000 words. lol.

            Basically, you can collapse my remark down to “He made two different designs but never got them built, Lovelace hacked code against his design but not the real thing.”

          2. And, actually, unless Wikipedia is lying to me, I’ll do one better and quote what the wiki has to say on exactly how the Countess accomplished what history remembers her for.

            During a nine-month period in 1842–43, Lovelace translated Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea’s memoir on Babbage’s newest proposed machine, the Analytical Engine. With the article, she appended a set of notes. The notes are longer than the memoir itself and include (Section G), in complete detail, a method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers with the Engine, which would have run correctly had the Analytical Engine been built.

            So, Lovelace analyzed and understood it and provided what is arguably the first algorithm written against a computer language (…design).

        2.  Sorry to reply to this, but I can’t see my reply thingie on the lower comments you made.  :-(

          No need to apologize for over-explanation… I do the same in my area of expertise.  

          And she was one smart hacker.  It’s kind of sad she lived when she did (living something of a cossetted life) and in fact that she died rather young too, aged 36. 

  25. Although I was enraged by the same quotes, there is another layer to this.  I think part of the reason it has been so easy for the world at large to dismiss these complaints is to assume they are all related to unwanted sexual advances.  Nevermind that, in my experience, this is a rather small problem relative to the far greater issue of being treated like a contributor rather than an intruder.  It seems far easier for most to focus and dismiss the first, and then you get dumb articles like this.

  26. That’s it, Streitfeld. Surrender your balls. Off with ’em. You don’t get to have the pride of wearing them anymore.

    My father’s girlfriend (they’re both easing into retirement now) was responsible, together with a small team, of putting together and running the computers behind a major California university’s ground-based telescope for decades. I’ll call her up and tell her that the astronomers who relied on her punchcard programming were entirely misplaced in their praise. The fact that she was a fiery, radical feminist in her prime surely won’t result in any fuss. She worked there because the men allowed her to assist them in astronomy. Yeah.

      1. Couldn’t be. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s porn on the internet. Tipper’s an infamous bluenose, and she’d never have anything to do with (shudder) PORN!

  27. There’s a lot of people here, Xeni included, conflating achievements in tech with the creation of what most people think of when they think of the modern Internet. Some things were building blocks yes, but let’s not be as hyperbolic as the author was.

    Yes, the author is an asshat who knows next to nothing about tech history. But it seems like he was trying to say, “Early internet tech was a man’s world, and the world is changing.” I don’t think he was really trying to say women couldn’t have created the internet, or that all tech pre-Internet was done by Valiant Men with Pocket Protectors; I think he was just lazy and did no research. Which is as good a reason as any to rake him over the coals.

    1. But it seems like he was trying to say,

      The thing about being a writer is that you are responsible for communicating your meaning clearly in words. That’s the bone I have to pick with that opening line. Your readers should not have to debate WTF you meant with a trollish open.

  28. I don’t give a flying fork on who invented the Internet or their gender. It doesn’t matter. You simply treat everyone with the respect they deserve. 

    This misogamy in the geek culture has got to end. What I’ve seen in the gaming community and the programming community is simply disgusting.I lived at a time when being called a geek was an invitation to a swirly. I didn’t like the harassment, the constant putdowns, and the idea that somehow I was less than human because of who I was. And, I can’t imagine anyone who’s now proud of this former epitaph would dare to do the same with others.

    You treat everyone with the same respect you want to be treated with.

      1. I think it’s putting the head in a toilet, then flushing said toilet….? I think.  Never happened to me (or anyone I know) though I was entirely a social outsider as a child.

  29. I’m glad I looked up “Betty Holberton” who mentioned in one of the tweets, she and her female co-workers weren’t allowed to actually work With ENIAC, it was too secret, so they figured out how to write code for it from blueprints and technical schematics. *has no more words*

    1. Um well, in the early days, the only way to learn to program a machine was from the schematics and other information.  I remember having done that as late as the early sixties so I could write a proper device driver for the tape drives on a machine. 

      Early courses were often done by people explaining the instruction set in terms of the underlying computer logic.

      Getting back to Betty Holberton: She liked to tell the story of how she convinced John von Neumann to include an explicit “Halt” instruction in the order code (as it was called).  This was probably the first instance of a decision based on software-engineering principles. 

      Betty was also known for having provided the first-ever sort-algorithm generator, for Univac I in this case.  My experience with her also came on the ANSI Fortran subcommittee.  In fact, the subcommittee was reconvened, following the publication of Fortran 66, because of the comments she had submitted on areas that needed to be clarified on the specification.  That effort subsequently morphed into the development for the Fortran 77 standard.

    2. They were eventually allowed to have access to ENIAC and rewire it to run the calculations themselves. I wonder if it was held up waiting on a higher security clearance.

  30. while i appreciate the sexism-in-sci-tech issue, the reality is that one dood DID, in the only important sense, invent the internet. that dood is leonark kleinrock.  naturally the average internet bumpkin (boy or girl) won’t understand queueing theory, but that doesn’t change the truth.

    1.  Kind of irrelevant to this discussion though, if only because the author didn’t write “A MAN invented the internet.” He claimed that MEN did, and now women are crawling onto the scene. It’s just as incorrect, and for the same reasons, whether he considers the contributions of a large group of people all building on each others’ work – but only men – or of a large group of men which somehow proves something – when it was only one guy.

    2. The Internet was created by a hell of a lot of folks working together to come up with the invidual parts. Without the spanning tree protocol, there would be no routing. No routing: no Internet.

    1. This is what I don’t understand about any mysogynistic man. It’s like… what test tube did YOU wriggle out of as a fetus? Or were you not grown in a lab and instead landed on this planet through the conventional ways us normal people arrive through?

      1.  Yeah, but not everyone has good moms. I’m thinking that at times, this sort of misogyny comes from someone being abused by their mother as a child (or abandoned, or whatever).  And I’d second what Chenille below said as well.  It’s about perceived proper gender roles.  I’d even argue that it is the social and cultural enforcement (which is still an issue, though weaker than it’s ever been historically) of such gender roles that leads to some mothers being abusive perhaps.

    2. Misogynists rarely deny that women make good mothers, and usually want to keep them all in that role. They just somehow didn’t notice that their mother was also a person – or all too often had it taught out of them.

  31. When the NYT comments on this later, they will credit Mark for the ‘steaming turd’ line.

  32. There’s a great Grace Hopper poster available here: http://www.adaptstudio.ca/blog/2011/07/grace-hopper-deserves-a-poster.html

  33. The irony here is that, while the Times article tried to bring a story forward, its presentation and tone has now become The Story. 

  34. but didnt vint cerf invent the internet? and if i recall correctly, didnt radia perlman just invent a network protocol? it seems like  this is trying to dodge around an uncomfortable truth that most things are invented by men.

    1. The sweeping nature of those four opening words, “Men created the Internet,” is at issue. 

      Not the fact that Leonard Kleinrock, Vint Cerf, and other individual men played extraordinarily important roles in creating the composite phenomenon we now refer to as “the internet.”

      Really? Not one woman, not even women whose work wasn’t credited, contributed anything? Bullshit.

    2. “and if i recall correctly, didnt radia perlman just invent a network protocol?”

      Oh, wow.

    3. “just a network protocol”?

      “The Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) is a network protocol that ensures a loop-free topology for any bridged Ethernet local area network. The basic function of STP is to prevent bridge loops and the broadcast radiation that results from them. Spanning tree also allows a network design to include spare (redundant) links to provide automatic backup paths if an active link fails, without the danger of bridge loops, or the need for manual enabling/disabling of these backup links.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanning-tree_protocol

    4. Without that network protocol of hers, there’d be no routing. Packets wouldn’t be able to go from network to another to create an internetwork, aka Internet.

  35.  its sad that woman arent always given the credit they deserve but saying they deserve more credit because woman make babies seems like a very cheap argument.

    1. People aren’t saying that ‘making babies’ warrants more credit. They’re just saying that it ought to warrant at least somewhat better treatment than open contempt and dismissiveness for centuries on end.

  36. oops, he forgot the winking smily emoticon at the end of the article to tell us he was only kidding.

  37. My comp sci days were weird.  We would talk about these things that were invented by women, but when a woman would ask a question of the older profs, the women would tend to get a tone, and a look, that implied that the women’s time would be better spent making sandwiches and pouring coffee and beer for us menfolk.

  38. Joyce K. Reynolds’ name is on a lot of RFCs, and she spent 20-ish years as an RFC editor, and more.   Dorothy Denning has done a bucketload of work on security and crypto.  Leah Jamieson’s name is all over parallel processing/programming research.   Evi Nemeth is the driving force behind THE Unix/Linux system admin manuals.   Susan Landau did incredible work at Sun. Mary Shaw has done the same at CMU.   And so on.

    1.  But the US military is an institution made up of people, and it wasn’t all of those people who “invented the internet” it was only a subset of those people, and that was in conjunction with other people from other places, right?

  39. They really should publish your post as a rebuttal, unless they’re deliberately trolling for clicks. 

  40. I have never worked in Silicon Valley, though several of my friends have. And even I know that the “lore” says sexual harassment is a serious problem there, and has been for years.

  41. So, there is something I don’t really understand about some of the comments of this thread and maybe other boingers can help me to understand… I was just wondering, given some of the comments (largely which have been removed) in this thread that keep sounding all angry that Xeni was annoyed with women being taken out of the historical picture regarding the emergence of the internet, why do some guys (maybe some ladies, too, I don’t know) just get so pissed off and deeply offended when you try to say that women/minorities contributed to something historically and that leaving them out of the picture is just historically wrong? It’s not just this thread where you see this. You talk about racism, all of a sudden you are attacking all white guys, you talk about sexism, same thing. For this particular case, the three or four posts removed (that I saw anyhow) leaned toward that line of thinking, stating that it was basically reverse sexism to say that it was not just men that invented the internet.  Maybe I don’t understand cause I’m a weak and womanly woman, who just isn’t smart enough to get it?  :-/

    1. … and we probably never will understand, because any of their explanations will be removed.

        1. it would certainly be _much_better to have it explained by the original posters, but i’ll hazard a guess:

          Anytime someone makes a broad statement, there are almost always exceptions.  And detailing every exception to a broad statements would take the discussion too far off track to be practical.

          Therefore, to always insist on various subgroups being mentioned is more that subgroup expressing power than clarifying the discussion or making history more accurate.

          In the same way, i think it is reasonable in most discussions to not mention the few virtuous white people who suffered from the slave trade, the teenage men who suffer from date-rape, the formerly male transgendered individuals who contributed to the development of the internet, the extremely small number of virtuous nazis who suffered during the holocaust, etc.

          anyway, in this case the author was trying to make the point that silicon valley is an old boys club, and that needs or is likely to change.  So they probably believe that taking issue with that opening paragraph is more a knee-jerk asserting of feminist rights to be mentioned than trying to clean the article of some anti-female bias.

          1. I guess I see it as more being an historically inaccurate statement. I don’t see the reaction by Xeni and others as some misguided feminist attempt to get into the historical minutia of these events. His statement was in fact quite sweeping and could use some corrective, frankly speaking.

            Also, I’m curious what you mean by “feminist rights.” I don’t think my right to be treated as an equal human being in the public sphere is a “feminist” right, just you know, the way things should be.  Maybe I’m being unfair to the rest of the electorate by thinking so, I’m not sure.

            Are you making this argument yourself, or just channeling the removed commenters?

          2. by “female rights” i just meant the collective political interest in trying to make things become the “way things should be”

            i don’t know if there is a more appropriate term for this — certainly didn’t mean anything disparaging.

          3. i didn’t read the removed comments, so it’s just my guess as to what they were about.

            sure, i’d make the argument, but it also doesn’t bother me when people do try to correct things like this, so i’m not very passionate about it.

            it really only bothers me to the extent that is sidetracks or distracts from the discussion at hand.

          4.  Sorry to reply here, to a below comment, but my “reply” button is non-existent there for some bizarre reason… I blame the men who invented the internet, frankly…

            re: feminist rights: well, you called it “knee-jerk asserting of feminist rights”, so to me that seems to tell me you think this is some sort of “special” set of rights, at least that was how that statement came off to me. Of course, we could probably go all day about the limits of feminism to address structural inequality, of course. I just don’t think that being treated equally constitutes anything knee jerk in generally.

          5. Anytime someone makes a broad statement, there are almost always exceptions.

            When the exceptions are always the same and always omitted, it’s called bigotry.

    2. Ok, I’ll be less insulting and explain my position.

      Grace Hopper invented the compiler.   This is like inventing fire.  Really, it is.  You can’t overstate the importance of what Grace Hopper did.  It precedes Dennis Ritchie’s C-language, and frankly it provided the framework for accelerated innovation across all scientific fields.  Grace Hopper deserves the Nobel Prize.

      In this way she contributed to any and all endeavors that use compiled code.  Robotic surgery, space travel, etc.   This doesn’t mean she should be mentioned whenever someone talks about technology.  We don’t mention her in the same we don’t mention the inventor of the computer, the transistor, or the use of electricity.   

      Now, having said that, lets be specific about the emergence of the internet.  Paul Baran is credited with “inventing” and writing the first paper on packet-switched networks.  His paper ultimately led to the initial creation of ARPANET.  The very first people involved with this happened to be a group of 8 or 9 men at the core of it.  They were the wellspring for the ideas that generated this first iteration of ARPANET that would evolve into the internet.

      After this occurred, Radia Perlman came along.  Within the network engineering world, I am not aware of anyone not giving Radia Perlman credit for what she has done.  Radia’s work formed the basis of modern networking arguably up through the last year or two where SDN has started to emerge (assuming that even takes off and becomes the next major evolutionary turning point of networking).   She invented STP and ISIS.  She drove the spanning-tree portion of OSPF.  Clearly she is the mother of the modern internet.  

      Sally Floyd should not be forgotten, either.  She invented RED (Random Early Detection).  

      All I’m saying here is, arguably, “men” did invent the internet.  Paul Baran and those folks basically conceived of packet-switching and built the first iteration of ARPANET.  There is nothing wrong with acknowledging this fact.  Acknowledging this fact is not an insult to women.  

      I tried to “invent” into quotes here for a specific reason.  As the article does point out, noone really “invented” the modern internet.  It evolved from loose collaboration and lucky coincidences.  Women certainly contributed fundamentally to it.  

      1. See, I don’t think it’s this that people had issues with, it was the folks (who had their comments removed, it seems – were you removed?) who were stating that acknowledging women’s contributions somehow meant that men’s work in the field were being ignored.  It’s not a zero-sum game and that’s how some people want to treat changing historical narratives to be more inclusive (at least in terms of reflecting historical reality).

        I think the last paragraph of your reply here actually sums it up nicely and I think reveals the problem with the opening line of the article. By saying “men invented the internet” at the top of his article, he reinforces this popular notion that women were not part of the field overall in a foundational way. It is just factually incorrect.

        As for your “men, arguably, invented the internet”, I think such technologies are always built on other technologies, no? And some of those technologies that gave us the internet were not just created by men, no? ARPANET was not created in a vacuum, hence it is built on other technologies, even if it is something pretty groundbreaking.

        But I really did want to know why when you point out women contributed to society in numerous ways (other than darning socks, making babies, and maybe being nurses and teachers…), and that this has been ignored in the past, and look, here is a corrective… some people just go all off the rails, and get personally offended, as if they are being held personally responsible for sexism (and racism) in society? Can you explain that to me, because I don’t understand that mind set? That was what I was trying to get at in my above comment.

        1. Yes, you are right.  Technologies are always built on other technologies and you will note that generally speaking people avoid the word “invent” when referring to the internet.  They are always referred to as “pioneers.”  

          But an idea is an idea.  Packet-switched networks, as an idea, started with Paul Baran.   This lead to the formation of the team that built the ARPANET.   This is not an argument about “men” and “women,”  this is really an argument about when the internet started.  I think it started with Paul’s idea and the actual building of the first packet-switching network.  Others would argue that it started later with the introduction of other ideas such as TCP/IP or the world-wide web.  

          Getting back to the point of the article, if we are talking about the “internet” as it exists today, then its just not true that “men” invented it.  

          1.  Okay, why are you using men in scare quotes? ;-) 

            I guess maybe part of the problem is that the guy does not define what he meant by “internet”, either. Did he mean ARPANET (I doubt he knows what that is) or did he mean the modern world wide web.  These are historically contingent things here, something he ignores by just throwing out a buzzword with on contextualization… 

            You have not addressed my larger question though? If you don’t know, that’s fine, because I sure as hell don’t know… 

      2. i read the article to be referring to “the internet” as everything from ARPANET to a publicly-traded Facebook and in-between.  I think people care about gender bias in the silicon valley business community, not in research labs of the 1960s.

        So in this reading i took the author to be using blatant exaggeration when he said “men” invented this.

        1.  Maybe that’s a way to read it.  I’m not so sure, though.

          Also, I care about sexism in research labs in the 1960s, but I’m a history geek, so, there you go.

    3. I don’t have an answer to your question.  Maybe its because the answer, as in most things in life, as to “who did what and why” can be contextualized in so many ways that general (and provocative) statements invariably upset people who believe they have a truer understanding of what actually happened.  There is a sort of “impedance mismatch” if you will (I will borrow a programming term here) between these types of sociological articles about different perspectives of social behavior in different social contexts, and the people who live within those contexts.   Frequently the social analysis does miss the finer points.  Sometimes the social analysis is just wrong.  Sometimes the people living within that social context *can not break free from it* to understand it from a different perspective.  In this case, it could the perspective of women or of the author themselves that people are having trouble with.

  42. If men invented the internet, rather than a single man… does that mean Al Gore has multiple personality disorder?

  43. are opening paragraphs like this really meant to be taken that literally?  Wasn’t the author’s point just that Silicon Valley of the 70s-2000s was male dominated to a fault?

    1. I don’t see why his sexual orientation matters here. And the NYT article mentions that he had a previous relationship with a man (related to the context of the story, I think). How do you know he identifies as gay rather than as bi-sexual. Because wikipedia says so?

      1. Maybe it doesn’t matter, but with these kinds of stories I think there is usually more to the story than is published, so unusual circumstances are sometimes worth pointing out.  He was a bit of a public figure in manhattan finance circles and was very well known as identifying as gay for many, many years.  I would assume now he identifies as at least bisexual, if not straight.

      2. Buddy Fletcher has been a public figure for the past 20 years.  That’s how i know he’s gay.

        1.  Did he say he was gay, in public, and identify himself with the gay community? Do you know if he ever dated women? And really, does it matter in the context of the story do you think? I’m not trying to be an ass, I don’t know the guy, so I don’t know the answers to these questions.

          Also, remember Chasing Amy?

  44. This “men invented the Internet” claim must be news to Sandra Lerner, one of the two founders of Cisco Systems.

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