Jacqueline Harper: "Shining Star”
This Week's Guest: Jacqueline Harper
ABOUT THIS EPISODE
Jacqueline Harper has the kind of story that is frequently overlooked in the history of tech. As one of the first black female programmers, her career goes back further than most of our guests. Jacqueline worked for IBM as a secretary in 1964 but never went to college. In 1965, she was sent home from work when she became pregnant with her first child. Eight years later, after her three kids were born and back in school, she went back to work in the IBM typing pool and discovered ways to automate the work she was tasked with. She developed an interest in programming and, through IBM’s internal classes, learned the skills to join the first ranks of programmers.
Jacqueline’s perspective brings us more than stories of go-go boots in the IBM offices in the 70s, (although those are fabulous). She has a perseverance and fascination with knowledge that spurred her career at IBM and still inspires her hobbies today (see more in the links below).
Jacqueline was a rare find for this podcast, and we’re excited to share her story that so embodies the goal of “Stayin’ Alive in Tech”—to bring forth the oral history of tech in order to better approach the future.
BOOKS AND TOPICS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
The earliest core dumps were paper printouts of the contents of memory, typically arranged in columns of octal or hexadecimal numbers (a "hex dump"), sometimes accompanied by their interpretations as machine language instructions, text strings, or decimal or floating-point numbers. [Wikipedia]
More about Jacqueline’s current work to excavate artifacts from freed slaves: Poughkeepsie Journal article: “Slavery's hidden history in the mid-Hudson Valley coming to light”
The Archaeological Conservancy: Locals Dispute Over Guinea Community Artifacts
JACQUELINE’S BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS
Jacqueline has a treasured signed copy of “Things Fall Apart” by Dr. Chinua Achebe and highly recommends it.
More About Our Guest
Jacqueline Harper had a long career as a programmer for IBM, spanning both the rise of mainframes and the early transition to personal computers.
She started working at IBM in 1964 as a secretary, but was told she had to stop working when she was pregnant. She returned in 1972 as a secretary for the selectric and electric card typewriters in the chip manufacturing division. Upon seeing first-hand the growth in mainframe usage in multiple industries, she decided to become a programmer in 1975. Over a 25-year career, she programmed in Assembly language, db2 and eventually early versions of SQL, predominantly for Floor Control Manufacturing Systems. In addition to IBM, Jacqueline has had a long career in residential real estate in the Hudson Valley.
Jacqueline was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, and now lives in the Hudson Valley in New York state. She’s been active in the Hudson Valley Historical Society, including helping excavate a freed slaves colony discovered in the 2000’s.