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Unsung heroines

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Not all female role models are high-profile hackers. Some of us have been motivated by geek women who labor in obscurity. Please leave testimonials to their influence here.

  • Zrusilla: My mother got me into this business.
She worked in computer documentation division back in 1958, when a mobile digital computer was something lugged around in two semi-trailer trucks. In the 70s she learned COBOL. In 1984 she acquired a Kaypro portable computer, dubbed "Darth Vader's lunchbox." Its operating system was CPM and it ran useful business software such as WordStar.
She took to programming, writing a conference management package in DBase for her employer. She went into business for herself, consulting on hardware and software and doing custom programming for small business. She referred to her practice as 'computing for the low and humble.' She had the proto open-source mentality, always fighting the expensive proprietary solution in favor of the open, inexpensive and practical. Where the cost of Novell networking was out of reach, she installed ARCnet networks sold by Grapevine for a fraction of the cost.
She taught me to write batch menus in DOS, how to recover corrupted DBase files manually in a hex editor, how to defrag a disk, how pull out and install disk drives and cards, how to set up printers, how to read and edit codes in WordPerfect, how to siphon files between computers with LapLink and many other digital survival skills of the 80s. I learned that you can tell an authentic IBM PCs by the blue screws and that Compaqs are the worst to take apart, being held together by 11 screws. She gave me my first computer, a Compaq XT with a dead monitor + a 386 speedup board + a CGA monitor. It was a Frankenputer but it was cheap and it worked.
One day I told her I was fed up with office work. "Well, I love programming. I'd pay to do it. And you enjoy working with me. So why not take a programming class?" I took a class in C, then another programming class, then another, and so on until university decided to grant me a degree in computer science.
She has largely retired from programming, and now directs her efforts towards writing and editing a local newspaper she recently co-founded.

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