I applaud the goals of the research reported in "Women and Men in the IT Profession" (Feb. 2008) by Vicki R. McKinney et al. Unfortunately, the conclusions fell somewhat short of their goals; that is, it seems that women and men already in IT share similar socialization, experience, and attitude. Missing from the study was a non-IT control group. It is not surprising that there are few differences between women and men in IT. What about differences between women and men not in IT? Or between girls and boys who have not yet made a career choice? Discovering these differences would shed more light on the question of why more women don’t enter the profession in the first place.
McConnell raises excellent questions about career choices and what influences the decision to enter IT (input). The National Science Foundation funded us to study women who are already IT professionals (throughput) and other researchers to study input issues in the IT work force. Our focus on throughput delivered surprising insight into current IT professionals.
Vicki R. McKinney
Darryl D. Wilson
Peripherals As Important As Processors
Gordon Bell’s article "Bell’s Law for the Birth and Death of Computer Classes" (Jan. 2008) focused on processor technology, saying "The evolutionary characteristics of disks, networks, displays, user-interface technologies, and programming environments will not be discussed here." But, in fact, peripheral devices are just as important as processors in computing.
The earliest "hobby" personal computers used paper tape, but it was the floppy disk that made PCs practical for business use. Programs like Runoff and FancyFont allowed limited forms of publishing on chain and dot-matrix printers, but it was the laser printer that made WYSIWYG word processing generally useful and put PCs in offices the world over. Multimedia needs fast CPUs but wouldn’t be practical without relatively inexpensive multigigabyte hard drives. A simple cell phone might get by without a display, but it’s the LCD display that makes smart phones possible.
Celebrate Weiss’s Contributions, Too
My congratulations to all involved in producing the outstanding 50th anniversary issue (Jan. 2008). However, my own article, "The Battle of the Covers," fell short in at least one significant regard—not mentioning the key role Eric Weiss played in taking the helm as the first chair of the Publications Board (I was the second). He established the framework in many ways for all who followed, taking on the task with his usual patience, dedication, good judgment, and equally good humor. His support of Communications during those early years was crucial.
M. Stuart Lynn, Editor-in-Chief
January 1969March 1973