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Frances Allen, a pioneer in Faster Software for PCs, dies at 88



Illustration for article titled Frances Allen, A pioneer in faster software for computers, dies at 88

image: IBM

You may not know who Frances Allen is on the top of your head, but you should. She was not only the first female colleague of IBM, but also the first woman to win the prestigious Turing Prize. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Allen also pioneered computer compilation – the process by which the utilities we use convert software from human-understandable high-level coding languages ​​into code. source can be machine executable.

Allen died on August 4, her 88th birthday, in a nursing home in Schenectady, New York, of Alzheimer’s disease.

Despite his groundbreaking achievements, Allen initially had no intention of pursuing a career in computer science. After earning a master’s degree at the University of Michigan in mathematics in 1957, Allen worked with IBM to pay off her student loans. She taught the new employees of IBM Fortran, a new type of high-level programming language that allows engineers to code in something more understandable than binary. While Allen only intended to stay at IBM until her debt was squared, she spent the next 45 years there and retired in 2002.

From the outset, Allen was assigned as the IBM liaison for the National Security Agency and worked on the development of Alpha, which IBM description is “a very high level coding language that has the ability to create new alphabets outside of the one defined by the system.” She manages the whole compiler optimization team Harvest and Stretch project, leading to Stretch-Harvest computers. According to the The New York TimesIt was the most advanced computer of the time and was created with the aim of preventing communication from spies around the world.

At that time, the compilers were not very efficient. That means software can be slow, cumbersome, more expensive, and error prone. Allen and IBM researcher John Cocke published a series of articles describing how humans can communicate more effectively with computers, including the 1972 article “Conversion optimization categories.

This may sound like a far cry from modern computers, but in reality, Allen’s work has shaped the way we interact with all the technology in our lives. Her work can be found in “any application, any website, any video game or communication system, any government or bank computer, any computer in a car or plane. , ”Said Graydon Hoare, creator of the Rust programming language, in Allen’s New York Times obituary. Basically, you can thank Allen for creating a platform that allows today’s developers to write an app or website that your smartphone, tablet, or computer is nearly as possible. understand and execute immediately.

In addition to his achievements, Allen also played a key role in attracting more women into computer science. IBM Note that she spent “years as a consultant through the IBM mentoring program,” and also received several awards for helping women in the field. In addition to being introduced into the Hall of Fame of Women in International Technology, she also received the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award.


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