Women who go to the trouble to get connected, learn the skills and get the necessary gear don't do it just to talk lipstick

OK, I confess - I too was a technophobe. Many years ago, I was asked what kind of computer I owned. The answer was, "Hmm, a small, beige, rounded one, I think." I meant, of course, a Commodore 64, then at the bleeding edge of home-computing technology. My geeky boyfriend who bore witness to my blasphemy went pale and almost died of embarrassment. Then he ruthlessly forced me to learn Basic, so I could get my computer to say eloquent things like "Hello, Eva, how are you?"

The sudden pleasure of getting my small, beige, rounded thing to talk to me was as intense as it was unexpected. I got hooked and since then I've never stopped playing with machines. They don't gossip, don't pay you compliments and don't want to know if you have PMT. Instead, they insist on steady, logical and dispassionate treatment.

Despite these obvious social failings, computers have been at the heart of women's interests in more ways than one. I was sold on the computing concept from the conversational point of view, although it took me six more years before I could experience the Internet and chat with real people instead of my "imagined" Basic-programmed characters. Then the interest became a passion and, soon after, an addiction.

But along with other women, I soon discovered one of the downsides of linking our computers to the Net - the overwhelmingly male presence in the online community. Women were sought after, but as objects of digital desire rather than as partners and co-builders of cyberspace. The only areas allocated to us were marketing-led artificial gender ghettoes such as Women's Wire. The commercial failures of these projects was predictable - women who go to the trouble to get connected, learn the skills and get the necessary gear don't do it just to talk lipstick.

I've found that the only common denominator for all of us f-email users is an interest in technology and what it can do for our careers, professional development and, of course, earning abilities. Typical topics from women's magazines such as "how to get a man (and his money)" or "59 ways to have sex with your boss" don't seem very interesting compared with configuring your laptop to pick up your e-mail via a mobile phone, learning a new trick with Macromedia Director 6 or exploring the world full of goodies at shareware.com.

Fortunately, a lot has changed in the gender make-up of online users. In fact, now women are the architects and engineers of the wired world. For example, every time you use an intelligent agent, think about firefly.com, one of the pioneers of personalisation technology for the delivery of music products. The brain behind it is Patti Maes, a professor from MIT. Like me, Patti got into computers via linguistics and made it her mission to help us find the right products and make good use of personalisation tools for smart information management. She has managed to combine good ideas with a sharp business sense. Firefly has just launched a new version and is working with the major online services as well as with top search engines, providing tools for the much-loved My Yahoo.

Women are also behind the products that we will use tomorrow, the most exciting of which is Marimba's "push technology", which will broadcast information to our PCs. The brain behind Marimba, Kim Polese, is helping to define the future shape of the Web. She was also the marketing brain behind Java, and even if she were to retire tomorrow, cyberspace would have a lot to thank her for.

One of the key strategic decisions made in 1996 was Apple's acquisition of NeXT, which shifted the paradigm of the Macintosh operating system. The person behind this dramatic development was Ellen Hancock. As Apple's chief technology officer, she defined Apple's strategy for the next few years.

Closer to home, Jo Boatman, of Channel Cyberia, was responsible for redefining scheduled online entertainment. Her concept of channels and schedulers introducing time to the Web experience is now being implemented by Microsoft Network and AOL.

Yahoo and Excite have set up shop in the UK with women at the helm. Gail Robinson, editor of Internet magazine, is reshaping the Net press in the brave, new post-Wired world, and the girls from thepassion.co.uk have added a bit of spice to Web content, combining great sensitivity with cool technical competence.

Completing this shortlist of key women in technology in 1996 is a mentor of mine, Stacy Horn. Stacy founded the first women and "non-techie" oriented BBS in New York in 1993. It was called echo.com and lived for many months as a rack of modems above Stacy's bed in her tiny SoHo apartment. She singlehandedly built the first settlement on the electronic frontier and struggled to make it friendly, easy and useful for non-Unix heads.

These are the female pioneers of cyberspace. They should be an inspiration to us alln

eva@never.com

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncappd Comm: SThree: Do you have recruitment expe...

Sauce Recruitment: Head of Ad Sales - UK Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: An award-winning global mul...

Recruitment Genius: Management Accountant - CIMA / ACCA

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A new and exciting opportunity ...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager

£35 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join a gl...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines