the legacy of Evelyn Berezin.
There is still work to be done, but it is true that over the years, being born with one characteristic or another does not close the doors that were closed only a few decades ago. speaking of the sixties, being a woman was sometimes an impediment to getting certain jobs, but luckily Evelyn Berezin didn’t give up And thanks to your efforts, word processors or flight reservations are something totally familiar to us today.
The technological evolution in recent decades is impressive and in this regard names like Bill Gates or companies like Apple always come to mind, but there are lesser-known contributions that are not less important for that reason, and the case of Berezin is a good example. This American computer engineer He died on December 8 at the age of 93, so it doesn’t hurt to review its history and milestones.
The first stone on the road and its first historic achievement
In the 50s and 60s the germ of the computer science boom was already taking place. Computers, those first machines so large and so complex, began to be an important unit in more and more wealthy companies such as NASA, which needed these computers to undertake their ambitious missions, and not everyone was capable of knowing how to program.
There was still enough human labor in that computationWe remember him precisely talking about another woman with an admirable career: Christine Darden. In fact, between Darden and Berezin there are certain similarities speaking of their life and their career.
Evelyn Berezin intended to complete her higher studies in Business Administration, but finally she graduated in Physics from New York University motivated by a job offer in which she was asked for these studies (Darden, who was going to be a doctor, finally also chose to graduate in Physics , although some 20 years later). A decision that would be a success, especially in the face of a sector that seemed reluctant to accept equality when the New York Stock Exchange rejected her candidacy because “the language of the parquet was not made for the ears of a woman”, as she herself recounted in an interview (almost an autobiography, actually).
“I was petrified. […] The way we responded to those things at that time was different from now. We responded with innocence combined with paralysis. At that time we women didn’t even know how to object when we were treated like stupid idiots. “Evelyn Berezin
In fact, although he graduated in Physics he finally found work in the world of computers specializing in creating computer networks for specific tasks, accepting in 1951 a position at Electronic Computer Corporation (Elecom) as computer designer. Subsequently, this company was acquired by Underwood Typewriter Corporation, and with this Berezin became the head of the logic design department.
Years later, the company did not compensate for the purchase of Elecom, and although it merged with Olivetti, it laid off a large part of the workforce, including Berezin. Although it only took her two weeks to find a new job in a company called Teleregister, where in 1962 she achieved one of her most important achievements: developed the first computerized airline reservation system for United Airlines, the first of its kind in history.
If you can’t be vice president, create your own company
Berezin was working on logic design from 1951 to 1967, with the aspiration to become vice president of a company. But deep down she knew that she would never get it because at that time “that job was for a man”, as she relates.
“That job It was for a man, and he would never get it. He had learned his lesson. “Evelyn Berezin
However, there was a path to take, not an easy one but at least it was an alternative. He kept in touch with some ex-colleagues who had started their own business and were doing well, who repeatedly advised Berezin start his own company.
And this is what he did. In 1969 he founded Redactron with the intention of creating a tool that would revolutionize the working environment at the level of word processing, and two years later the Data Secretary, a device that facilitated the production of documents, allowing to edit, delete, cut and paste text and freeing secretaries (at that time the main target audience, 6% of the jobs in the United States at that time, which is not little) and other staff with the task of rewriting pages.
Berezin gave life to the Data Secretary, a device that facilitated the production of documents, allowing you to edit, delete, cut and paste text
Berezin says that when they began to design word processors, they began with special caution when designing keyboards, so that they would satisfy these many secretaries. Although what was a major problem was memory and integrated circuits, because in a way Berezin’s idea was a bit ahead of his time and it was not until 1970 that the first ROMs appeared.
He also relates something curious: just as in recent years there is a lot of talk about Silicon Valley as that technological and innovation cradle (for something it was baptized as Silicon Valley), at that time Long Island was the promising region regarding the development of circuits and semiconductors, with companies such as General Instrument, Standard Microsystems or Intel. The Data Secretary started out as a 1-meter computer with 13 semiconductor chips (some designed by Berezin herself), no screen and an IBM printer and keyboard, and later evolved by adding a screen, better memory, faster processing, and printers. separated.
There is much talk of Silicon Valley as the cradle of technology and innovation, but at the time Long Island was the promising region in terms of circuit and semiconductor development
The first machine was distributed in September 1971. In a year they had distributed some 1,020 units (596 sold, the rest rented or another type of service). In total, 10,000 units were sold, each one for a cost of $ 8,000.
However, the success failed to make the company bear costs, which added to an economic recession during those years made it necessary to make a determination. Berezin says that just at that moment, when the bank urged them to do something to solve the situation, they learned of a company interested in buying Redactron: Burroughs Corporation, which bought it in 1976.
A legacy that we relive in our routine
Evelyn Berezin continued her career receiving honorary doctorates from various universities, working as a director at others such as the State University of New York and holding senior management positions at Greenhouse Management Company and Standart Microsystems among others. A long curriculum that highlights that reservation system for United Airlines, which served 60 cities, and the birth of word processors, which over time ceased to be those somewhat crude machines to be a software that we now have both locally and online.
She not only wrote in history the milestones that we have told, she went on to found her own company and be a reference
It is also a bittersweet memory in relation to the escalation that women have had to make for centuries to achieve equality also in the workplace, perhaps with a little more battle in the technology sector: on the one hand it is an example of perseveranceOn the other hand, it reminds us that until not long ago it was considered that there were tasks for which it was considered that women were not capable, because they were. She not only wrote down the milestones that we have counted in history, she went on to found her own company and be a benchmark, being in 1976 the only woman who presided over a technology company on the BusinessWeek list of women entrepreneurs, according to the Museum of History of Computing.
“There were very few women in tech because they were scared, but actually they probably would have encountered less trouble trying to get a job there than in other fields. I’ve been in this industry for at least 20 years and I think I could do a better job. than 99% of the people I’ve seen in it. ” Evelyn Berezin, in 1975 to the New York Times
So every time we write a document, book a flight or carry out an online banking transactionWe will be doing it in part thanks to what Berezin did at the time. And it’s nice to think that in such everyday actions there is some DNA from the work of this engineer, which she left us so recently.