Short Bytes: Margaret Hamilton was the software genius of her times who made the smooth landing of the historic Apollo 11 on the Moon possible.The whole world knows of Neil Armstrong and his famous small step and a giant leap on July 20, 1969 when United States’ Apollo 11 landed on Moon. It was a historic moment for the mankind, a journey of 384,400 km that has today been protracted over 7.5 billion kms to Pluto.
But, the journey was not a fairy-tale as most people would know it. Years of hard work, failures and spirited team effort brought this dream to reality. As Neil Armstrong put his feet on behalf of all the mankind on the Moon, the world was ecstatic, and so was Margaret Hamilton, the woman whose code took the man to the Moon.
Margaret was the integral member of the part of the MIT team that was entrusted by NASA with the on-board flight software. This was the first time when the relatively new and abstract concept of software and codes were trusted with something so risky and real-time critical task.
As she recalls, just before the landing, the computer was cluttered with the erroneous signals and superfluous information sent by the radar and alarms went off indicating overloading. The software that Margaret and her team developed helped the computer to prioritize the tasks and avoided it from getting into a recovery mode. Had the software not been there, the computer would have gone berserk and history, well, not as we know today!
Margaret is hailed as the computer science pioneer and she was the woman who coined the term “software engineering”. Needless to say, most of the people reading this article would thank her for their employment. 1950-60s was a time when software stream was just evolving and was not given due respect compared to other fields of engineering.
Margaret tells in an interview to the Medium that she is surprised that even after all the achievements by the women in all spheres of lives and profession they still face biases and prejudices.
Parisa Tabriz is one such outstanding lady who has been employed by Google to protect its empire from black-hats. Parisa goes by the name- “Security Princess” proving women are equally good if not better than men.
Margaret had worked in all the Apollo manned missions and few unmanned ones as well. Naming her famous works, she has also worked on Skylab on-board flight software and preliminary software requirements for the Space Shuttle flight software.
NASA felicitated her with Exceptional Space Act Award for her contributions in the Apollo missions. She was also the founder of Hamilton Technologies Inc. in 1986 which provides services to modernize the planning and helps the software engineers with their problem-solving approach though the USL (Universal Systems Language).
All in all, she was an amazing woman who worked for the evolution of our technology and is an inspiration to all the women in the contemporary times.