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Magazine: Milestones
Fairy godmothers of the internet

Fairy godmothers of the internet

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Full text also available in the ACM Digital Library as PDF | HTML | Digital Edition

Tags: History of computing, Public Internet, Women, World Wide Web

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The internet would look like a scattered galaxy of information if women did not intervene in the process of building the internet we use today.

1942 Hedy Lamarr invents a secret communication system based on the concept of frequency hopping. The idea ultimately inspires the development of GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth technology.

1972 Karen Spärck Jones publishes her groundbreaking research. She is responsible for developing inverse document frequency, which has become a standard in modern search engines. It ranks a document according to its relevance when a query is received.

1974 Elizabeth Feinler leads the newly launched Network Information Center (NIC) at the Stanford Research Institute. She and her team develop a simple text file format for internet hostnames. The list evolved into the Domain Name System (DNS). She would later serve as the director of NIC in the 1980s.

1985 Radia Perlman, commonly known as the "Mother of the Internet," is responsible for the invention of the spanning tree protocol (STP), which bridges two computer networks for exchanging information and is commonly used in local area networks (LAN).

1998 Mitchell Baker is an integral component of launching Mozilla. She will later serve as the executive chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation. The open-source web browser, Mozilla Firefox, made internet connectivity more stable and safe.

2018 Gladys Mae West is inducted into the U.S. Air Force Hall of Fame. She is an African-American mathematician known for her contributions to the mathematical modeling of the shape of the Earth, development of satellite geodesy, and global positioning system (GPS) technology.


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