Thursday, December 13, 2012

How Sexism May Have Delayed the Computing Revolution


Two months ago, a really remarkable man — author, educator and designer Bill Moggridge — passed away.  Among his many achievements:  creating one of the first laptop computers, the GRiD Compass, in 1982.
It was a product before his time … not just because it was heavy (about 11pounds) and expensive (over $8,000).   According to a fascinating article in The Atlantic, the real reason it didn’t catch on among businesspeople was gender bias.

According to Jeff Hawkins, founder of Palm and Handspring (makers of the Treo), “At that time, 1982, business people, who were in their 40s and 50s, did not have any computer or keyboard in their offices.  And [the keyboard] was associated with being part of the secretarial pool or the word processing … department.  And so you'd put this thing in their office and they'd say, ‘Get that out of here.’  It was like getting a demotion.

“It took a generational change, for the next younger group who had been exposed to terminals and computers to grow up," Hawkins said. "That was an amazing technology adoption problem you would have never thought about."

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