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Oral-History:Ann Hardy

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Ann Hardy was an innovator in the field of shared, network-based computing, which later became the basis for the Internet. She graduated from Pomona College in Southern California in 1955 and soon began work at IBM as a programmer. She later moved to Tymshare where she worked in the then burgeoning field of time-share networks. She rose to become the first female vice-president of the company and then started two companies of her own, KeyLogic and Agorics.
 
Ann Hardy was an innovator in the field of shared, network-based computing, which later became the basis for the Internet. She graduated from Pomona College in Southern California in 1955 and soon began work at IBM as a programmer. She later moved to Tymshare where she worked in the then burgeoning field of time-share networks. She rose to become the first female vice-president of the company and then started two companies of her own, KeyLogic and Agorics.
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In this interview, Hardy discusses the discouragement she received from her family and teachers in furthering her education and becoming involved in computing, the challenges facing women in the computing field from the 1950s to today, and the joys of a career in computing. She also describes her work on her early computer programs like FORTRAN and OCTOPUS, and the growth of computer networks.
  
 
==About the Interview==
 
==About the Interview==
  
In this interview, Hardy discusses the discouragement she received from her family and teachers in furthering her education and becoming involved in computing, the challenges facing women in the computing field from the 1950s to today, and the joys of a career in computing. She also describes her work on her early computer programs like FORTRAN and OCTOPUS, and the growth of computer networks.
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ANN HARDY: An interview conducted by Janet Abbate, IEEE History Center, 15 July 2002.
  
 
Interview #599 for the IEEE History center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc.
 
Interview #599 for the IEEE History center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc.
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This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.
 
This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.
  
Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.  
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Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.  
  
 
==Interview==
 
==Interview==
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[This recording also captured a follow-on conversation about Tymnet, the Internet, and network security.]
 
[This recording also captured a follow-on conversation about Tymnet, the Internet, and network security.]
  

Revision as of 17:31, 21 May 2012

Contents

About Ann Hardy

Ann Hardy was an innovator in the field of shared, network-based computing, which later became the basis for the Internet. She graduated from Pomona College in Southern California in 1955 and soon began work at IBM as a programmer. She later moved to Tymshare where she worked in the then burgeoning field of time-share networks. She rose to become the first female vice-president of the company and then started two companies of her own, KeyLogic and Agorics.

In this interview, Hardy discusses the discouragement she received from her family and teachers in furthering her education and becoming involved in computing, the challenges facing women in the computing field from the 1950s to today, and the joys of a career in computing. She also describes her work on her early computer programs like FORTRAN and OCTOPUS, and the growth of computer networks.

About the Interview

ANN HARDY: An interview conducted by Janet Abbate, IEEE History Center, 15 July 2002.

Interview #599 for the IEEE History center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

Interview

INTERVIEW: Ann Hardy
INTERVIEWER: Janet Abbate
DATE: 15 July 2002
PLACE: Ann Hardy's office in Los Altos, CA


Family Background

Janet Abbate:

It’s July 15th, 2002, and I’m speaking with Ann Hardy.

I always start at the very beginning. Can you tell me when you were born and where did you grow up?

Ann Hardy:

I was born in Chicago, in 1933, and grew up in Evanston, right on Lake Michigan.

Janet Abbate:

What did your parents do for a living?

Ann Hardy:

Well, my mother, of course—it was the good old days [laughs]—my mother stayed home and raised children; and my father was in advertising.

Janet Abbate:

Did you have a lot of brothers and sisters?

Ann Hardy:

I was the oldest of five.

Janet Abbate:

Did any of them end up in computing?

Ann Hardy:

Two of my brothers work for IBM—followed me there, and then of course I left! [laughs.] But two of them followed me to IBM. My sister is a doctor, and my other brother actually is an auditor for the IRS.

Schooling

Janet Abbate:

Were you particularly drawn to math or science as a child?

Ann Hardy:

Well, yes. I liked math and science very much when I was going to school. When I went to college, I wanted to be a chemistry major. I would have loved to have been a doctor. When I got to college, unfortunately, my advisor was the Chairman of the Chemistry Department, and he didn’t want girls in his labs, and so they wouldn’t let me major in chemistry. I had to find a way around having a male for an advisor, so I majored in Phys Ed, so I could have a woman for my advisor who would let me take math and science.

Janet Abbate:

That’s really circuitous—that Phys Ed was the route to math and science! [laughs.]

Ann Hardy:

It was the only way to get in! I’m sure there were other men professors who wouldn’t have cared, but I happened to get one who didn’t want women in, so I had to find another way to take the classes that I really enjoyed.

Janet Abbate:

Did your parents encourage you to pursue mathematics?

Ann Hardy:

Oh, heavens, no! No. My mother, before she got married, had been a math teacher; and so she wouldn’t have minded if I had been a teacher. But pursuing anything else was not encouraged.

Janet Abbate:

Did they at least want you to have some kind of career and support yourself?

Ann Hardy:

Absolutely not.

Janet Abbate:

No. Okay.

Ann Hardy:

No, my mother always considered me to be a failure. The “different” one!

Janet Abbate:

You went to just the regular public schools?

Ann Hardy:

Yes.

Janet Abbate:

And they were co-ed?

Ann Hardy:

They were co-ed. In the public schools it wasn’t a problem, through high school. I didn’t run into problems until I got into college. I should have gone to a bigger school, where they didn’t have time to notice me! [laughs.]

Janet Abbate:

What college did you go to?

Ann Hardy:

I went to Pomona, in Southern California. They tell me, when they call me now for contributions: they tell me it’s different!

Janet Abbate:

How did you end up going there?

Ann Hardy:

Well, it was a long way from home! [laughs.] I was not happy in Illinois, so I wanted to go a long way from home; so I did. I looked at a map and got the school that was as far away as I could get—without having to take a boat to get there!

Janet Abbate:

So you ended up actually majoring in Phys Ed?

Ann Hardy:

Yes. My degree’s in Phys Ed.

Janet Abbate:

Wow!

Ann Hardy:

[laughs.] This was a different world!

Janet Abbate:

And that would have been ‘55?

Ann Hardy:

Fifty-five.

Janet Abbate:

What happened after you graduated?

Ann Hardy:

Well, after I graduated: as I said, I would like to have been a doctor, but of course my mother was appalled at the thought of having a doctor. She got over this later, as my sister came along and the others; but with me, the thought of having a daughter who worked was just unbelievable! [laughs.] You know, a total embarrassment! So, when I graduated I went to New York and thought I might be a physical therapist, and I took a semester of physical therapy, which followed along in my interests in [science]. The first semester there certainly is a lot of science—chemistry and anatomy and physiology—and it was very, very interesting. However, one of the classes was a class on medical etiquette, and one of the things you have to learn if you’re going to go into the medical profession, at least on those days, was that the doctor is always right—even if you know he’s wrong! And going through all these classes, we were studying with the med students, and it was perfectly clear to me I knew more than a whole bunch of the med students, so I didn’t think I was going to like taking orders from these guys. So I decided not to go ahead with physical therapy! [laughs.]

Janet Abbate:

Was it a gender split: the physical therapists were women and the doctors were men?

Ann Hardy:

That was certainly some of it. I think medicine still has a hierarchy. I think they want somebody to be responsible, which is a good idea, but . . . I don’t know what it was then. Doctors then—well, there are still some pretty arrogant doctors. I don’t know what it was. It was just the way they did it. I don’t think it was the school; it was just the way the medical profession worked.

Starting At IBM

Ann Hardy:

Anyway, I didn’t think I was going to like taking orders from these guys, and so I decided not to pursue that any longer. I was at Columbia taking physical therapy, so I went to Columbia for a semester and just took things I liked, like chemistry—which they hadn’t let me take in college! But my parents were getting a little nervous about having to support me, so I went and looked for a job. I had a friend who was working at IBM. He was an Engineer at IBM, and he said, “Why don’t you try applying for a programming job?” Well, just to give you some idea of how ignorant I was: I’d never heard of IBM; I’d never heard of computers! [laughs.] I knew nothing about anything! He gave me a crash course on who IBM was and what a computer was and what a programmer was, and he said, “Go call on them at World Headquarters,” which was down on Madison Avenue. So I just went in and said, “I’m applying for a job!” [laughs.] It’s the sort of thing where if I’d known anything, I never would have done it, but I was so naive that it seemed like the right thing to do.

I went in and applied for the job, and I was having this great interview with the Personnel woman—having a good time—until she asked me what my major was! [laughs.] We really were having a good time; we were talking about a lot of things, and things were going really well. She was so taken aback by the fact that I was a Phys Ed major that she didn’t know quite how to handle it, so I quickly jumped in and said, “But I’ve got several years of math and chemistry, and I think could take your test anyway, even if I was a Phys Ed major.” So she said, “Okay, well, we’ll let you take our test.” At that point in time IBM had just aptitude tests to see if you [might be qualified]. There were hardly any programmers, so they had nothing much to base anything on; one couldn’t study computer science in school.

Janet Abbate:

I’ve seen some—I don’t think they were IBM’s, but I’ve seen some aptitude tests, and some were word problems, and some were kind of a simple programming-like problems.

Ann Hardy:

These things were so simple. Mostly, I think, they were simple math, and the ones that really mattered were the “complete the series” [problems]. You know, those math things: “What’s the next number”; “What word follows?—those kinds of things. Because that’s what you do, if you’re programming. You have to figure out what would logically come next.

Janet Abbate:

Yes.

Ann Hardy:

So it was a reasonable test, given the skills you needed; because they wanted to give you something that wouldn’t take more than half an hour. It was probably fine. Fortunately, I passed the test, and they gave me the job! So that’s how I got into it.

It was very strange. I mean, talk about women in history! We worked down on the corner of Madison Avenue and fifty-seventh or fifty-ninth; there still is an IBM Building there, I think, or there was fairly recently. It was on the corner, and it had glass windows, and they had their computer in there, so that everybody could look at the computer, and they had it all set up so people could come walk [by]. The next thing IBM did [after hiring us] was give us six weeks of training on “What’s a computer?” (It turned out I wasn’t the only person who didn’t know this when I started!) There was a class of twenty and about two or three women, but the women always got to work on the computer in the window, because they wanted to make it look simple! [laughs.] And they told us that. “It’s important for IBM sales that it looks easy to use a computer, so the women always work in the window if they have anything to do, because the men will think it’s easy if they see women working there.”

Janet Abbate:

Now, was that an advantage, in the sense that you got more computer time?

Ann Hardy:

It was just much more pleasant than working up in the back office. So there were a few advantages. On the other hand, when we got to the end of the class, it turned out that they took the top three people and offered them positions in sales—because that’s where, of course, you could get the most money and where you can go up the [corporate ladder]. Then they took me aside and said, “Except that women can’t be in sales; so you can be a System Service Girl, or you can go into programming.”

Janet Abbate:

So you were one of the top three?

Ann Hardy:

I was one of the top three. But they really meant the top three men. So I decided that System Service Girl didn’t sound like it was going to be much of a career . . .

Janet Abbate:

Did you have any feedback on what that was like? I haven’t met any actual System Service Girls.

Ann Hardy:

Yes: it’s just like S.E.s [system engineers] now; it was the same job.

Janet Abbate:

So you went out and fixed the customer’s machines?

Ann Hardy:

You went out and did all the work; all the technical work. You fixed the computers; a lot of it in those days was still punch cards, so you had to know how to wire all the boards and fix the printers and all that stuff. “Why didn’t the printer total everything right?” “How do you add this new tax to our payroll thing?” All that kind of stuff. It was just like an S.E. is; it was just the same job. They finally changed the name to “System Engineer” many years later. But in the early days, they were “System Service Girls.” You know, they never expected you to work more than a year or two; they expected girls to go into it and leave in a year or two, and they didn’t even contemplate having a career out of it. All that changed over time, but back then . . .

So anyway, I decided to go into programming, which looked like it had more opportunity. I had a great time. I worked for a while down in New York; and then I went to IBM Research, which was up in Poughkeepsie; and then moved to Ossining; and then I went from Research into the Stretch Project. That’s where you found me [on a contact list for the Stretch reunion].

Janet Abbate:

Right.

What was it like when you first used a computer? Did you think, “Wow, this is really cool,” or was it strange?

Ann Hardy:

I thought it was fun! I mean, when you’re young, everything looks like fun, right? [laughs.]

Janet Abbate:

Not everyone, probably, thinks computers would be fun.

Ann Hardy:

It was just a natural for me. It was the kind of thing that was easy for me to do. So I thought it was fun; I thought it was amazing! And everybody was fascinated that I knew anything about a computer, because anybody else had barely heard of them. They were just fun. It was easy to do. Programs were simple; you ran the whole computer; there were no operating systems or other things to impede your progress! [laughs.]

Janet Abbate:

What hardware and software would that have been?

Ann Hardy:

Well, 407 printers, then 650s and 705s and 704s were pretty much what I worked on.

Janet Abbate:

And this was in some kind of assembler? What were they using at that point? This was pre-FORTRAN, right?

Ann Hardy:

Yes. I was a beta-test site for FORTRAN, so yes, that was definitely pre-FORTRAN. The first thing they taught us in class was just how to code in octal, because even assemblers were kind of a new concept, and they wanted to be sure you could fall back on something reliable! But it was mostly assembler. Then were just beginning to get languages. We did a FORTRAN compiler later.

Janet Abbate:

What did you think of that?

Ann Hardy:

Well, of course, once you’ve been in assembler on the machine, you don’t want to [switch to a high-level language]. I had some resistance to getting higher up and losing all that control. But on the other hand, it sure does make it easier to write simple applications. So it depended on which end of it I was on! [laughs.]

Janet Abbate:

So it was sort of a conversion process, where you were skeptical at first and then eventually thought, “Well, overall this is probably better”?

Ann Hardy:

Yes. Yes, it clearly was going to make a lot of problems easier, quicker.

So anyway, that was how I got into all this.

Janet Abbate:

What kind of stuff were you doing for them, before Stretch?

Ann Hardy:

Before I got onto the Stretch Project? In Research, one of the things we were worrying about—well, this was back in the good old days [laughs]: we needed to minimize the number of switches in hardware, because every component was separate and expensive. So I was working for one of the Research guys and did the software to optimize circuit design, so that they could reduce the number of components in some of the hardware. That was fun. That was very interesting, and a successful project.

Janet Abbate:

So you were pretty close to the hardware, in a way.

Ann Hardy:

I was very close to the hardware, for a long time! It’s fun to be close to the hardware. And very few people get close to the hardware anymore.

The Stretch Project at IBM and Livermore

Janet Abbate:

Now, Stretch, which was the supercomputer project: what were you doing for that?

Ann Hardy:

Well, let’s see. I worked on the FORTRAN compiler for Stretch, and then I did some of the language development for Harvest. Do you know about Harvest?

Janet Abbate:

That was the follow-up?

Ann Hardy:

It was sort of a peripheral, which was larger than Stretch. It was for NSA [the National Security Agency], and it did pattern matching.

Janet Abbate:

It was “harvesting” data?

Ann Hardy:

Harvesting data; right. NSA has a tremendous amount of information, much of it, in those days at least, encrypted (I’m sure they still get a lot of encrypted data); and one of the things they had to do is break a lot of codes. That was much easier to do in those days, because they didn’t have such big computers to encrypt them in the first place. So they used Harvest to analyze patterns and look for matches. It was very fast and, for its day, very powerful; faster than Stretch. Stretch was just sort of the administrator for this huge Harvest processing system.

Janet Abbate:

So it was the front end, in a way?

Ann Hardy:

Stretch was like the front end, yes.

Janet Abbate:

Was that your last project at IBM?

Ann Hardy:

That was the last project I did at IBM. I left IBM, and then I had no idea what I was doing! I thought it would be a good idea, since I had been a Phys Ed major, to go back to school for a little while and see what else was out there. I went to Berkeley for a year. One of the first Stretch machines to ship went to Livermore, which was close [to Berkeley], and of course I was one of the few people in California who actually knew how to program a Stretch, so it was fairly easy to get a job; and I really liked it out here, so I left IBM and went to Livermore and worked on their Stretch.

Janet Abbate:

And you were taking classes at the same time?

Ann Hardy:

Well, then I quit. I quit school. I decided it was more fun working! I decided I wasn’t such a good student, after having gotten out of the habit. My daughter went back to school and just loves it and is having a wonderful time, but I really got into working. Well, I liked programming. I was lucky: I fell into something I really enjoyed. So I went back to work. I worked at the Lab and wrote another FORTRAN compiler; wrote their text editor and stuff.

Janet Abbate:

What were they using Stretch for there?

Ann Hardy:

Well, they do weapons, and so they do simulations for explosions. “What’s going to happen if we do this or that?”

Janet Abbate:

That’s pretty computationally intensive.

Ann Hardy:

Computationally intensive: that’s exactly right. I didn’t do the applications, where they actually did that analysis; I just did all the things like the FORTRAN compiler and editor and things like that, so that they had the tools to write the applications to do the simulations.

They did a lot of weather analysis there, for a while. It’s all tied together, because what happens when you explode a device is significantly influenced by what the weather conditions are at the moment.

Janet Abbate:

Which way the wind is blowing, and so forth?

Ann Hardy:

Which way the wind is blowing, and what all the air currents are, and a lot [of factors].

Janet Abbate:

That was the early sixties, at this point?

At Tymshare

Ann Hardy:

I was there in the early sixties. I was there from sixty-three to sixty-six. Then I went to Tymshare in sixty-six.

Janet Abbate:

Now, Tymshare was just being formed in ‘66?

Ann Hardy:

Yes. Right. I was the fifth employee—that’s counting all the founders. Very early!

Janet Abbate:

How did that come about?

Ann Hardy:

How did I do that? Actually we’d written a time-sharing system at the Lab, at Livermore.

Janet Abbate:

What was that? I don’t know if I know that.

Ann Hardy:

It was called the OCTOPUS Time-Sharing System.

Janet Abbate:

I don’t know that one.

Ann Hardy:

Well, I can point you at somebody [who worked on it], who’s a man. Were there any women working on this? Barbara and I; Barb Schell was at the Lab with me.

Janet Abbate:

That’s “S-C-H-E-L-L”?

Ann Hardy:

S-C-H-E-L-L. I don’t know if there are any other women who worked on that. But anyway, Barb and I worked on that, and mostly guys.

Janet Abbate:

And you could have eight users or something? What was the significance of the name “OCTOPUS”?

Ann Hardy:

Actually it was pretty good, the one at the Lab. They had a lot of big computers you could play with, so we had gotten severely addicted to time-sharing. Because up until that time, of course, you took a deck of cards down to the computer and ran your cards, but you only got—if you were lucky, you got two shots a day, and that was as much computer time as you could get. You got the whole computer, of course; that was the nice thing about it. You got the whole computer; it didn’t have all these operating systems. That was the good news; but the bad news was, you only got two shots a day.

And then we got this time-sharing system, where you could just keep running. Every time you made a change and wanted to see if it worked, you’d just try it again! So you go from two runs a day—and all these cards—and pretty soon you have no cards, and you can do it as often as you feel like. So for people who like to program, it was wonderful, because you never had to stop! So we had gotten severely addicted to having time-sharing systems, where you could really work all the time and work from anywhere.

I was married at the time, and my husband got a job over here on this side of [the Bay], working for IBM over here.

Janet Abbate:

“Over here” being . . . ?

Ann Hardy:

Where were they? Menlo [Park], I think.

So I looked around for: What can I do over here, and stop commuting? And it turned out there was this little blurb in Datamation one week about how Tymshare was going to start a time-sharing company. They were in Los Altos, and I just called them up and said, “If you have any jobs available . . .” We talked for a while, and they didn’t know what they needed; but after I talked to them, it was clear to me they needed somebody to write their operating system, because they didn’t know what they were doing. So I called them back and said, “You know, what you really want to do is hire me to write your operating system.” And so they did! [laughs.] Because there weren’t very many people who knew what a time-sharing operating system was, in those days.

So that’s how I got the job. So I wrote their operating system, and that was for the SDS 940. We started with the system out of Berkeley. Berkeley had done sort of the outline of a time-sharing system on SDS; they had modified the SDS 930 hardware, and then they produced sort of an outline of an operating system to run on that. It didn’t have any disk, didn’t have any drums, ran mostly one user—as long as you didn’t want to get to any of the data that you’d used before, because if it overflowed your memory, it went on tape, and of course memory was very small. So that wasn’t very useful commercially, but at least it was something to start with: an idea and an architecture to start with.

SDS built 940s, and we bought one and had them add some disk, and we got Vermont [Research] drums from way back East, when they came out. That was our swapping device: a drum. We put together an operating system and managed to get it from one, maybe two users up to about forty. Given the size of the machine, I can’t imagine how we did that anymore! [laughs.] I had a great time. That was fun.

Tymnet Networks

Once we got our time-sharing machines up and running, then of course people from all over the world wanted to use them, and it was clear it would be better to have a network. So we promptly started Tymnet in 1968, and got Tymnet I deployed in about ‘69 and Tymnet II probably in ‘71.

Janet Abbate:

At the point you were networking, how big was your operation?

Ann Hardy:

We probably had one or two computers. Well, we started Tymnet I in ‘69; we probably had a computer here, a computer in L.A., and a computer in Paris.

Janet Abbate:

Paris? How did that happen?

Ann Hardy:

Well, they happened to sell one to the French! So from almost the beginning, we had a computer in Paris. We had a leased line over there to begin with, but that was just [temporary]. My biggest mistake was, I figured out how to debug it from here, instead of having to go to Paris! [laughs.] You know, that was supposed to be the whole point of time-sharing systems, so I demonstrated that they worked; but that was really a big error on my part. It would have been great to have a month or two in Paris! [laughs.] But it came up and ran, anyway.

So, we obviously had computers all spread out. It was clear we couldn’t expand very much. I mean, the idea had originally been “put a computer in every city,” but it’s expensive to have these big operations all over the place. It was clear that it would be much less expensive if we could have all our computers in a couple of centers and have everybody else call in from local nodes.

Janet Abbate:

So the network was as much for maintenance of the system, or operations . . .

Ann Hardy:

It was really for the customers.

Janet Abbate:

I mean, part of it is for them to access; but it sounds like you also don’t want to have to have a local staff everywhere.

Ann Hardy:

You don’t want to have to have a computer center. Having a computer center and having the operators and all of that: that’s huge overhead.

Janet Abbate:

So you could centralize it.

Ann Hardy:

What you want to do is centralize the computer centers and still have customers from all over the place—so networking was obviously the way to go. We got our first network out, as I said, in about ‘69.

Janet Abbate:

Now, what were you drawing on at that point? I mean, there were some networks—people building IBM 360 networks and stuff—but there wasn’t a lot.

Ann Hardy:

Yes, that’s right. There were really no other comparable networks at the time.

Janet Abbate:

So how did you come up with this?

Ann Hardy:

Well, of course I wasn’t . . . The real designer of the network was a guy named LaRoy Tymes. Even though the way his name is spelled looks like “Tymshare,” he had no relationship to Tymshare; he came because he was a friend of mine.

Janet Abbate:

That’s total coincidence? I never knew that.

Ann Hardy:

It’s total coincidence that the names are the same. He came because I knew him from the Lab. I talked to him about this issue we had, the craziness of: “We want to expand; people want us to expand; it’s not practical. Let’s do a network.” So LaRoy joined Tymshare. and we worked on the network. But I was still writing the operating system, so I only had some of the time on the network.

Janet Abbate:

But wouldn’t the networking functions have impinged on the operating system? I know when they did the ARPANET, they had to revamp all these operating systems.

Ann Hardy:

Yes, it certainly had a big effect on the operating system; we had to rewrite all the communications. But I’d written the operating system the first time, so it wasn’t a big deal! [laughs]

Janet Abbate:

But you still must have been one of the first people thinking about how you make an operating system support networking.

Ann Hardy:

Oh, yes; absolutely! Right. All the issues about echoing. It was full-duplex: When do you echo? How do you make that responsive? When do you break? The original design had breaks on every character, so that you could be very responsive to the user; but of course, if people are coming long distances, then it’s disruptive to the way you type. All the issues about, “How do you work over a network?” But they were fun.

Projects at Tymshare

Janet Abbate:

Now, you were there almost twenty years .

Ann Hardy:

Yes. I was there from ‘66 to 84 or ‘85.

Janet Abbate:

So what kinds of different things came up over time?

Ann Hardy:

Well, after I did the operating system and we got Tymnet launched, then you could do a lot of different kinds of applications, because then you could do transaction applications.

Janet Abbate:

Ah. Yes.

Ann Hardy:

I was lucky; I had a division that did most of the online transactions, like online bill-paying, online banking, online airline reservations: all kinds of things that people think today are brand new, we were doing in the late seventies. Online medical, automating hospitals. Lots of stuff that today people think is new, we were doing in the seventies. So, it’s fun. Addressing some of these things [today], I understand all the [issues that will come up]. People think, “My gosh, she predicts the future!” [laughs.] I’ve already been there!

Janet Abbate:

You would be doing the server side of all that?

Ann Hardy:

Yes. Unfortunately, back in those days all the terminals were dumb. There were no PCs.

Janet Abbate:

Oh, so I guess it wasn’t really a client-server system.

Ann Hardy:

It wasn’t client-server in the same sense that it is today, because the terminals had no intelligence. But it was client-server in the sense that to a large extent, you couldn’t tell the difference between what you do today as a client, and what you did then on your dumb terminal.

Janet Abbate:

You had kind of a remote client program, in a way.

Ann Hardy:

It was like a remote client. We edited files in our editor, like you work with Word today. They were your own; you had your own space; you did your own thing. It didn’t actually look a lot different from the way the PC does today. The big advantage to the PC is that it’s got a screen and not paper, because the dumb terminals were all paper terminals in those days; but other than that, the way you interacted with things was not really that different. Anything you’re doing line-by-line—editing or command-line stuff—is exactly the same. It was exactly the same, responded in the same way; it just came typed out on your page, instead of showing up on your screen. In lots of ways it wasn’t that different. It really was the predecessor to what we have.

Janet Abbate:

So you were developing applications for . . .

Ann Hardy:

. . . for all these different kinds of things. Right!

Janet Abbate:

This was software for particular clients? You weren’t selling software packages at that point?

Ann Hardy:

Well, we did sell software packages. We had software packages that many clients used. The bill-paying was our application, and you could sell it to anybody. The online banking we did for First Interstate Bank, and so they sold it to their customers. The airline reservations we sold to the travel agents, so virtually all the airlines participated in that.

Janet Abbate:

But were they buying the service, versus the software?

Ann Hardy:

They were buying the service. Yes. Yes, it didn’t do them any good to buy the software, because they didn’t have the networks. So they bought the combination; right. They didn’t have anything connected the way we had Tymnet connected.

Janet Abbate:

So you had created a sort of software service market.

Ann Hardy:

Yes: application service. One of the things we did was Western State’s credit card authorization service. When you run your card through, who authorizes it? Well, it was a natural for Tymshare back in those days, because nobody else had networks, and it was easy for us to run a system that did all that. So, any of these big service transactions . . .

Janet Abbate:

. . . you had a hand in.

Ann Hardy:

Yes. Right.

Gender Issues at Tymshare

Janet Abbate:

Were there a lot of women working at Tymshare?

Ann Hardy:

No.

Janet Abbate:

I’m not sure how big the company actually got to be.

Ann Hardy:

Well, we ended up with about 3,000 employees.

Janet Abbate:

Wow!

Ann Hardy:

Three or four thousand employees. For that kind of a company, it was really quite good-sized. But at that time there weren’t a lot of women in the business. Tymshare had more women than most companies, but still, there weren’t a lot. A lot of women told me they came to Tymshare because Tymshare was the only company they had ever looked at where there was a woman VP! [laughs.] They wanted to go to a company where they could see that there was some opportunity for women.

Janet Abbate:

Interesting. And you became VP fairly early on?

Ann Hardy:

Yes.

Janet Abbate:

Because you were in at the beginning.

Ann Hardy:

Right; because I was in at the beginning. That was interesting: I was always a senior manager or VP. I was a VP there for ten or twelve years, half the time [I worked there]. It did influence [female job candidates]. It did make it easier for women to come to the company; it did make them more interested in coming to the company.

Janet Abbate:

And were they able to advance?

Ann Hardy:

Yes. [But] there were no other women VP’s, and we were into the mid-seventies, at least, before Tymshare allowed women into sales; mid-to-late seventies.

Janet Abbate:

And was that the route up?

Ann Hardy:

Well, it’s always the route up. You know, that had been the problem at IBM, and the same thing was true at Tymshare. It was mid-to-late seventies before the VP of Sales was willing to hire women. You know, Congress passes some law, and then ten years later they begin enforcing it—they don’t begin to enforce it; they begin to act like they might enforce it someday [laughs]—so [companies] begin to look around [and think] maybe they should hire a woman or two. Audrey was one of those: Audrey McLean. I gave you her number.

Janet Abbate:

Right, right. You mentioned her.

Ann Hardy:

So there were some women, but it was a long time before women.... They didn’t let women into Operations—I mean, like running the Computer Center—until the mid-seventies.

Janet Abbate:

Now, why was that?

Ann Hardy:

It was like my chemistry professor: “We don’t want women in the Operations Room, distracting all the men!” I had this argument with the guy who ran Operations all the time. I said, “You’re always inviting me in there to debug your computers, so what’s the difference if there’s another woman in there?” And he said “Ah, well, you’re not like a woman!” [laughs.] “Well, thanks a lot!” [laughs.] But I was the only woman in the Operations for years.

Janet Abbate:

Was that because it had a more blue-collar feel or something?

Ann Hardy:

Macho. And of course, I wasn’t an operator; I was a developer; so they could get away with pretending I wasn’t really there! [laughs.] It was a long time—it was mid-seventies—before they let women in.

Janet Abbate:

Now, your husband was also at Tymshare.

Ann Hardy:

He came later.

Janet Abbate:

What was that like, working at the same place? Was it convenient? Awkward?

Compensation Disparities

Ann Hardy:

Well, it was convenient, except for the compensation—because in the beginning they would tell me, “I don’t know why we should give you a raise. I don’t even know why we should be paying you at all, because we pay your husband, and that’s enough! Paying one person in the family is enough.” Then they would tell me, later on—they finally discovered the law got passed, and they realized they had to at least pay everybody who worked there—and then they said things like, “But we can’t pay you more than your husband. I’m sorry that you’re the VP and he’s a developer, but there’s no way you can make anything like the rest of the VPs, because we can’t pay you more than your husband makes.” So except for the compensation, it was fine.

Janet Abbate:

And that was to spare his masculine feelings?

Ann Hardy:

That’s right. He didn’t care! He would have been happy [to have me get paid more].

Janet Abbate:

Right!

Ann Hardy:

Right. But that was before [the equal pay laws were passed]. People say, “What are these laws for? We don’t need the laws. Everybody gets treated fairly.” It’s just not true. Until the laws were passed, these are the kinds of things that happened, and we would go back to that [snaps finger] in a minute if they repealed all these laws. It’s just too easy not to—I mean, why pay people if you can get away without paying them?

Janet Abbate:

Were there literally people not getting paid?

Ann Hardy:

There weren’t people not getting paid, but there were people getting paid way less than their peers.

Janet Abbate:

Women?

Ann Hardy:

Women; right.

When I was at IBM... Talk about compensation: when I was at IBM, working on Stretch, they made me manager of one of the groups, and of course everybody else in the group was a man. We’d all worked together for about a year as a group, and then they decided the group needed a manager; and so they made me the manager, and all the other people in the group were men. They had to give me a fifty percent raise to give me a salary that was equal to the lowest-paid man in the group!

Janet Abbate:

Oh, my god! And that’s what they gave you?

Ann Hardy:

That’s IBM. Yes. And they gave it to me; that’s what they gave me. That’s IBM, which is one of the best places in the world to work, for women.

Janet Abbate:

Was that the first point at which you realized how underpaid you had been?

Ann Hardy:

Well, yes. That’s when I realized how horribly underpaid I was.

Janet Abbate:

Did it seem like a good salary to you? I mean, before that?

Ann Hardy:

It had. I don’t know if you want to hear all these funny stories!

Janet Abbate:

Oh sure, yes!

Ann Hardy:

Well, it had seemed like a good salary, because when I went to get a job, I had an aunt who lived in New York and who worked in an office; and I went out to get a job, and she said, “You’ll never make more than fifty dollars a month.” I knew I couldn’t live on fifty dollars a month, but she said, “You have no skills. You don’t even know how to type.” It wasn’t entirely true. I had never taken a typing class, so that was true, and I didn’t know how many words a minute I typed or anything like that, but [I could type]. So she said, “You have no skills; fifty a month is the max that you possibly can make.” Then, of course, I got this job as a programmer, and I was making more than two thousand a year—two or three thousand a year—at IBM.

Janet Abbate:

You were rich!

Ann Hardy:

I was rich. Compared to what I had been expecting, it was a lot of money, because she had told me that nobody makes that kind of money. Then she was very suspicious about what kind of a job it was, when she found out how much money it was! [laughs.]

Janet Abbate:

What did she think you were doing?

Ann Hardy:

Well, that’s what she thought I was doing! And she called my mother to report! [laughs.] Because she’d never heard of a woman making anywhere near that much money. So I hadn’t felt so bad about my salary, until I realized how much less it was than everybody else’s!

So this has been a problem right along. Now you have Personnel Departments who worry about this sort of thing, because if you ever get caught being so discriminatory; it’s hard on the company—I mean, they get the company for that. But in those days, there were no laws; you didn’t have to pay women equally; it didn’t matter—so nobody cared. Except me! So things are very different. They’ve gotten better.

Work and Family Balance

Janet Abbate:

Were you raising kids at any point?

Ann Hardy:

Oh yes, I had kids. I started at Tymshare in ‘66, and then I had my first child in 1968, and I had another one in 1970. So I had two kids all that time.

Janet Abbate:

How did you balance work and family?

Ann Hardy:

I don’t know. I don’t think it seemed so hard at the time. In retrospect, I’m not entirely sure! [laughs]

Janet Abbate:

Was it very flexible?

Ann Hardy:

I had a full-time baby-sitter who was there five days a week. She came early in the morning and stayed all day; took care of the kids; and she was great. She was English, and she was like the typical English nanny, and she was fabulous! So she raised the kids, and my kids grew up with an English accent! [laughs.] But as I said, it didn’t seem so hard at the time. I’m not sure why, in retrospect, but it worked out fine.

Janet Abbate:

So were they pretty flexible on how you could work, or if you needed to be home or something?

Ann Hardy:

No, I worked all the time. You know, this was a time-sharing system; we had terminals at home. I was writing the operating system—and maintaining the operating system, which is worse, because you have all these people: we would sell it to a university, and all of a sudden you’d get attacked by all these kids who wanted to see if they could break into the operating system.

Janet Abbate:

Ah!

Ann Hardy:

Sounds familiar? [laughs.] So I got to do all these all these initial hackers. I got to deal with hackers from early on.

Janet Abbate:

How early did that happen?

Ann Hardy:

Well, we went on-line in late ‘66, and by ‘67 we had hackers. It didn’t take long at all.

So, if things got really bad, or the operator screwed up—and machines were very unreliable in those days, and so the machines would crash a lot; it had nothing to do with the operating system, but I was the only person who could tell what was wrong with the hardware—I would work night and day, basically.

Janet Abbate:

You were sort of on call?

Ann Hardy:

I was on call, 24 hours a day, to keep the machines up. The first year and a half, there were definitely a lot of bugs in the operating system! But after that, it wasn’t mostly the operating system; it was mostly other things. By that time we were on networks, which are always going down, even today. It just needed somebody who understood software to figure out where the flaw was this time.

So I was basically on call 24 hours a day; and so if I took off an hour during the day, they were making it up at night anyway, so they didn’t worry a lot about it. They were willing to be flexible and have me work at home, but it just wasn’t very practical. It wasn’t very practical—in those days at least, with the kinds of things we were doing—not to be at work in the office, with the other people, doing the planning. You know, they’d go off and plan something dumb if you’re not there! [laughs.]

Management Responsibilities

Janet Abbate:

Were you managing a lot of people?

Ann Hardy:

Oh, yes! Different-sized groups at different times, but yes: lots of people.

Janet Abbate:

Did you have to develop management skills to do that, or did it come naturally to you?

Ann Hardy:

Well, that’s a very good question, because they kept making me a manager. I told you they made me a manager back at Stretch, and people kept promoting me into management jobs, and I really wasn’t very happy about being a manager—until I had my kids. Once I had children, it turned out—I don’t know what happens: whether your chemistry changes, or whether it’s the experience of mediating between your children all the time, or whatever—it just seemed so easy immediately after that!

Janet Abbate:

Interesting!

Ann Hardy:

It was! The skills you need to keep people working together just seem to come. I don’t know if pregnancy changes your chemistry or something! [laughs.]

Janet Abbate:

Or if employees are really like two-year-olds? [laughs.]

Ann Hardy:

Well, no; but people are people, and people—no matter what age—get into these same kinds of issues, and suddenly it seemed very easy to manage. So it was interesting. It was like night and day; because I hated it before I had my kids, and afterwards it seemed like the easiest thing in the world to do. I don’t know what it was.

Janet Abbate:

Have you noticed that with other people: that parenthood seems to make them better managers?

Ann Hardy:

I think that happens with men, too: that a lot of them are better managers after they have families. It gives you a balance in your life; sets your priorities.

Janet Abbate:

That’s so interesting, because our business culture seems to be not really oriented toward making it easy for people to have families and be managers.

Women in Computing

Ann Hardy:

Well, that’s one of the things that I can never understand: why women don’t go into this field. In reality, it’s so easy, if you’re in computer science, to get part-time jobs, to work at home. We have had, over the years, a lot of people who came in maybe three days a week and worked at home for a couple of days. They’re working off the same server, wherever they are; you do some planning, and everybody has to go away and work anyway for a few days, and then they come back. It’s so easy to find a place to work where you can adjust so that you really do have a lot of time at home; so you can work part time; so you can take extensive leaves and still come back. So the kinds of things that women need and want to be able to do are much easier to do in this industry than in most; and I don’t know why there’s this myth that it’s hard to do. Because I’ve never worked in a company, and I’ve never seen a place, where that wasn’t easier to do in this industry than most any other industry.

Janet Abbate:

That’s interesting. Do you think computing has gotten more open to women over time? Or about the same?

Ann Hardy:

No, I think it’s gotten less open to women. Once you get into industry it’s fine, but I think it’s much harder for women to get in, because they don’t get the background; they don’t get the education. I think women are up against the same thing in computer science now that I was up against in chemistry years ago.

Janet Abbate:

So, just even getting into the major?

Ann Hardy:

I think it’s getting into the major. I think it’s getting the background from the time you’re in the fifth grade through high school. They keep sorting women out of that process, and I think all the counselors—well, based on the little anecdotal experience I have, all the counselors seem to think that everybody who goes into computer science is just nerdy, and so women shouldn’t want to do that, because these women aren’t nerdy. They let nerdy women do it, but not just ordinary women! And it’s just not that way; once you get into it, it’s not like that. But trying to get there is so hard, because you keep getting sorted out in the schools. I have numerous anecdotal stories of girls who are in high school or college, who try to take some of these courses and get discouraged by the counselors. It’s crazy! That’s exactly what they should be taking; but the counselors don’t seem to understand what the business is really like. So I think it’s harder to get in, because the girls get sorted out while they’re still in school.

So it’s very hard to hire women. Most of the time I’ve been here, we haven’t been able to bring in any of the relatively [experienced women]. We try to bring in people with three to five years’ experience.

Janet Abbate:

This is still Tymshare you’re talking about, or is this Agorics now?

Ann Hardy:

This is at Agorics. And we just never find any [women].

Janet Abbate:

And a woman with a Phys Ed degree would probably not have an easy time!

Ann Hardy:

[laughs.] Right! It would be really hard to get in with a Phys Ed degree these days. It would be hard to get in, although that would be a mistake. It’s just a shame. It’s a shame that women are not really informed about what it’s really like to work in this field, because it’s a good field for a woman.

It would greatly improve this field—because the only people they really encourage to get into computer science are these nerdy guys, and so there are real communication problems, which would be solved if they’d let other people in and encourage other people to do this. The designs for the human interfaces on computers are pretty awful, and they’re awful because the only people they let in to work on these designs are these guys who are these nerdy types! Now, I have a little hard time saying too much about that, because of course that was me back when I was writing the operating system! [laughs.] I don’t even want to work in FORTRAN; I like my hands on the hardware. So I was just the same; I understand how they feel; I’m very sympathetic with, “Why should I talk to people?” I understand that attitude very well, and how pleasant it is and fun it is, and all that. But it’s also not doing the industry nearly as much good as it could be. There is enormous amounts of productivity that are available from computers that we’re just not getting, because we don’t have the right people doing things, and we don’t have the different kinds of people in the industry. So I wish there would be a lot of help training the teachers and the school counselors, and encouraging more women to get into this, because it’s a great field for women. It does have the flexibility they want, in spite of what everybody believes, and it would do wonders for the industry.

Her Children and Their Relationship to Computers

Janet Abbate:

What did your own children end up doing? Were they both boys? I’ve forgotten.

Ann Hardy:

No, they’re both girls. One spent her twenties being a river guide and environmentalist. She graduated from Santa Cruz in environmental studies or something and went out to Moab, Utah, and ran river trips, but very ecologically oriented. She has studied all the geology and all that stuff, so there’s lots of science behind what she has to say; but when you go on a river trip with her, it all sounds like a story! She spent a lot of time just doing that kind of thing. She’s back in school; she’s studying environmental law and mediations, so that she can work in that. Pamela’s interesting, because in order to support herself doing all this—because of course river guides don’t earn a fortune, and of course they don’t work in the winter—she got a job doing customer service for a PC company, where they gave her a lot of training. Of course, the kids know a lot about computers. I mean, what could they do? [laughs.] It wasn’t their fault!

Janet Abbate:

Well, they grew up with it in the house! That was pretty rare.

Ann Hardy:

That’s right! My kids were putting together Apple IIs when they were in grade school, so they do understand them. We were a funny household, because by that time my husband and I were divorced, so we had a household with three girls and four or five computers! [laughs.] Because everybody had their own, and then of course I always had extras for this or that. But it never showed up in the statistical charts. “Women households and their computers.” You know, they had “How many computers are in households run by men?” but we never showed up.

Anyway, she knew enough, so she’s done a lot of work supporting herself getting jobs in the field; and at this point she’s doing all of our QA and testing [at Agorics]—which she could go do anywhere at this point. So, yes: it’s a great field! She just got into it because her mother was into it; but the opportunity for women . . . She works all winter, and we’ve hired QA consultants in the past who did the same thing: worked all winter for us and went off in the summers and did other things—because QA is one of those things that comes and goes, and you can find the job when you want to work, and you can go off and do other things when you want to do other things; and yet, while you’re doing a computer-oriented job, you’re making a lot of money. Why women don’t see that, I don’t know. It’s too bad about that; it’s crazy. Anyway, she’s making a lot of money at it.

Jennifer is the creative one. She does costume design; she’s worked for TheatreWorks —you don’t know TheatreWorks; it’s our local theater—and she’s writing a book, and she’s just completely different!

Janet Abbate:

She’s not making ends meet with computers?

Ann Hardy:

Well, she’s very good with computers, very facile; but she’s trying to avoid having everybody in the family work on computers. Fine: somebody has to not work on computers! [laughs.] She’s trying to be our last holdout.

Janet Abbate:

Well, it’s a good thing to fall back on. There can’t be that much money in costume design.

Ann Hardy:

There isn’t much money in costume design, so she can always fall back on the computer. That’s right.

Starting Her Own Company

Janet Abbate:

Now, you worked somewhere else before Agorics. You started a company?

Ann Hardy:

Yes, I started a company called KeyLogic. When Tymshare was acquired by McDonnell-Douglas in 1984—this is an odd experience, too: McDonnell-Douglas acquired Tymshare, and then they held their annual VP meeting for McDonnell-Douglas. This was two or three hundred people, and it turns out it was the first meeting where they had ever had a woman!

Janet Abbate:

I guess I’m not surprised, for an aircraft company, but still . . .

Ann Hardy:

Sure: an aircraft company. And every speaker the first day of this meeting started his presentation with some kind of an off-color joke. By the second day, it occurred to John McDonnell that this probably wasn’t a good way to be handling this particular meeting, but the first day was bad news—because it had never occurred to anybody that there would be a woman in the room.

Janet Abbate:

Or that even without a woman in the room, that might be inappropriate.

Ann Hardy:

Right. And it was extremely inappropriate, given that there was a woman in the room. So it was clear I didn’t fit in to McDonnell-Douglas. That wasn’t going to work out. That was their culture, and clearly these guys were not very interested in changing the culture. John McDonnell was a really nice guy, but some of his VP’s weren’t.

Janet Abbate:

He was the head?

Ann Hardy:

He was the head. You know, McDonnell aircraft.

Anyway, we had at that time developed [some marketable software]. We were doing all these transaction-processing applications with multiple companies who didn’t want to share their proprietary data but wanted to use the same databases. You know, like airline reservations: American doesn’t want to tell United who they’re working with, but they all have to use the same database. So we had developed, first of all for the credit-card processing application, an operating system that was a very high-performance transaction-processing operating system that was provably secure: so things like viruses couldn’t get through, and people provably couldn’t get to somebody else’s data, and stuff like that.

McDonnell-Douglas let us take that out and try to sell it. They licensed that to us and let us go off and start KeyLogic and try to sell that—which worked really well for several years, because time-sharing was in at that time, and other companies with mainframe computers that they wanted to be able to use in that kind of environment saw the value of this; bank processing [for example]. It was just incredible. Things went really well for a few years, but then it was the late eighties and everybody suddenly thought everything was going to be on PCs, and all these big companies shut down all their mainframe divisions and went to small mini-computers and PCs and figured there would be no more networking. “We don’t have to do networking.” The downside of time sharing was that you were on these big networks, and you didn’t always get as much time on a computer as you wanted to get; so the big thing in the late eighties or early nineties was, “Out with time sharing. All the computing that you could possibly want can be on your desk. You don’t have to share it with anybody; you know exactly how much you have; and you won’t have to communicate!”

Janet Abbate:

But how do you do transactions?

Ann Hardy:

Well, they forgot to think about that! [laughs.]

Janet Abbate:

I mean, it seems like the banks and airlines would realize they still needed networks.

Ann Hardy:

I know. They just didn’t think about what was going to happen next. You know how the market goes. Like the last two years [which saw the high-tech bubble burst]: the market gets on some wave, and then management gets on the wave, and they don’t really think about all the practical things that are going to happen next. So they all got on this wave of “No more networks; no more sharing. Everybody’s got their own and will do their own processing.”

When the market went away, we pretty much sold off some of the assets and closed that down, because that was just not..., When the market’s bad, it’s better to go on vacation! [laughs.]

Travels Abroad

Janet Abbate:

This is the early nineties?

Ann Hardy:

This is the early nineties. So I went on vacation for a couple years. I did some consulting, and I spent a lot of time in Mexico and had a wonderful time. I can’t wait to go back! [laughs]

Janet Abbate:

Just having fun?

Ann Hardy:

Just having fun! Well, you know, when the market is bad, you go and have a good time, and then when the market comes back, you come back to work.

Janet Abbate:

Did you ever make it to Paris?

Ann Hardy:

Well, I did a lot of work in Paris when I was working at Tymshare.

Janet Abbate:

So you did manage to get there.

Ann Hardy:

Later on I managed to get to Paris. I didn’t get there with the operating system, but I got there with the applications. I did a lot of stuff in Paris later on, in the seventies. I spent a lot of time in Paris; a lot of time in Italy, in Rome and Florence; a lot of time in London—a lot of good places!

Janet Abbate:

Now, were there other women? I know there should have been in London, because there were lots of women in computing there, but in places like Paris and Rome, was that unusual?

Ann Hardy:

I never ran into another woman.

Janet Abbate:

Really!

Ann Hardy:

Ever.

Janet Abbate:

Even in England?

Ann Hardy:

No, no, even in England. I can’t think of ever—I’m sure it must have happened, but I can’t ever remember being in a meeting where I wasn’t the only woman. It stopped ever even making me think about it, because I had gone for so many years without [meeting other women]. At Tymshare there were no other women in senior management, so at all the managers’ meetings: nothing. There were never women. There just never were women in anything we did. We did a big project with American Express in the Philippines, and they took us all to the Philippines—twenty people: I was the only woman. I just never ran into women.

We had a great time in Rome. We worked with Italcable in this wonderful old building in a historic site, and it was just fantastic: beautiful place, and they served us tea every afternoon; some nice man came in with a silver tea set and served us all tea in china cups, and it was just gorgeous! But there wasn’t even a woman’s bathroom. It had never occurred to them that they would have women in meetings.

Janet Abbate:

What kind of company was that?

Ann Hardy:

Italcable. It was their big communications company! It was their international communications business—all of Italy’s international communications business—and it never occurred to them that they would have a woman in a meeting! [laughs.]

Janet Abbate:

Did you go to any professional conferences over the years?

Ann Hardy:

Yes, some, but not too many. With IBM, yes; but Tymshare wasn’t big on sending their technical people to conferences, so I didn’t get to too many of those. Not as many as I would have liked.

Janet Abbate:

These were technical? Because didn’t they have professional associations or [user groups like] SHARE, or anything like that?

Ann Hardy:

Yes. I certainly did some of those; yes. There were more women at those. I don’t know why the women showed up at those but never in my meetings—never in my meetings. Strange! I don’t know.

Janet Abbate:

So after you had your vacation . . .

Starting Agorics

Ann Hardy:

I’d been working with this group of guys back at KeyLogic; they hadn’t worked for KeyLogic, but we’d been doing some consulting, and I’d done some consulting with them when I wasn’t in Mexico vacationing. They were all available, and there was a great contract with Sun that we could get, if we were only a business; so I came back and started the business, because they were just fun to work with. It was a fun contract, and so we just got it [Agorics] started, and it’s been going ever since. It’s cutting into my vacation! [both laugh.]

Janet Abbate:

What does “Agorics” refer to?

Ann Hardy:

“Agorics” is from the Greek word “Agora”: marketplace. And what we do is marketplace applications: buying and selling on the Internet.

Janet Abbate:

Securely . . .

Role Models

Ann Hardy:

I have a couple of questions, like: What are you going to do with this?

Janet Abbate:

Ah, right. Well, there are two components: One is [that I’m going to write a book, and the other is that] the interviews themselves are going to be archived. I have some money from NSF to do that, and that is what they’re particularly interested in: I think they’re hoping that it’ll encourage more women to go into the field if they can see all these great role models and all the history that is there. Actually, I was going to ask you if you had any particular role models or mentors or anyone who encouraged you, male or female.

Ann Hardy:

Well, certainly Tom O’Rourke, who was the President of Tymshare, was encouraging; and I think the management at IBM. Sully Campbell was manager of the Stretch Project, and he was very encouraging. But I think why I got into it and how I happen to still be here is completely different from what anybody would be thinking today.

Janet Abbate:

Well, that’s true in a way; although I think what’s interesting is that so many people I’ve talked to had kind of unconventional paths.

Ann Hardy:

Yes.

Janet Abbate:

And I think that in itself is helpful to know. If you have this mindset that you have to follow this particular path and that’s the only way that will ever work, I think it can sort of get you out of the box to think, “Well, people came from all these directions.”

Ann Hardy:

I would like to see this industry just, as a general rule, have a reasonable number of—you know, half—women. The industry could use half women, just for the communication and the design of the interfaces. If half these people were women and they were having their influence, it would make such a difference in the usability of computers!

Benefits of Women in Computing

Janet Abbate:

Well, that’s another thing I’m interested in: what skills women might bring to the mix. It seems clear to me, from the people I’ve talked to, that women bring partly the management skills, but also relating to clients and figuring out, “What does this person actually want?” It could be technically perfect, but if it’s not what they want, it’s a failure.

Ann Hardy:

That’s right.

Janet Abbate:

That’s sort of this key part that’s not defined as being part of computing.

Ann Hardy:

Right. See, one of the problems is that the men who go into computing: it’s not that there aren’t a lot of men with those skills, but men with those kinds of skills go into sales—because there’s so much more money in sales; because they’re the guys who are going to go for the top; they’re the guys who get the big deals; so they don’t go into [the technical side]. Now, it would be nice if the women could go into sales, too; but there is so much opportunity for [this type of person on the technical side as well]. I think the men with personalities, and most of the women, get weeded out of computer science at such an early age.

All these communication skills; creative design; how you explain things to people: I mean, most of my job is just going off and talking to people. What are they really saying when they talk to you? When we first started Agorics, we had this contract with Sun, and we’d go sit in a meeting; and I’d get around with the guys afterwards and say, “Okay, what did they say?” And they didn’t hear half the conversation! I’d say, “Well, don’t you remember he said this? He did. Do you know what that means?” “No.” “Well, what if it meant this?” “Oh! I’ll bet it does!” [laughs.] It’s just communication. The guys in this field are very, very good—and I love working with them, or I wouldn’t have started Agorics—but they’ve been talking to computers since they were ten, not to other people!

So there’s this whole set of skills that somebody else needs to bring, and women would be wonderful to bring that. And the advantage to women is that it’s such a flexible industry. They need those skills—people who have some idea of what’s going on—so badly, that you can really write your own ticket. You know, you put in a couple years; you put in a few years to get the basics; but then you really have so much flexibility about when you work, and how you work, and where you work.

Goals of the Interview for Computing History

Janet Abbate:

Right. Part of what I’m trying to get at with this project, or one thing I think I can get at, is that by seeing women’s stories and their experiences—and you could even do it with men, but it’s just much more obvious with the women—it actually gives you another view of what computing is, as a profession.

Ann Hardy:

That’s right.

Janet Abbate:

That the mix of skills is much broader . . .

Ann Hardy:

Much broader than people realize.

Janet Abbate:

And the ways of succeeding.

Ann Hardy:

Right!

Janet Abbate:

So I think it’ll really change the history of computing, in a sense, to say, “We’ve been so fixated on the hardware that we’re not really seeing the whole picture.”

Ann Hardy:

That’s right. We’re not solving the real problems, because we don’t have people out there who can communicate back and forth. It’s these people in the middle that are missing—the people who can talk to the people doing the design and the people that can talk to the customers—and lots of women are wonderful at that. Lots of men are, too, but as I said, a lot of the men who are good at that are in sales.

Janet Abbate:

Well, the incentives aren’t there. I mean, communication is not really valued as a skill in the proportion that I think it actually . . .

Ann Hardy:

That it actually is. Right.

Janet Abbate:

It is actually effective and valuable, in the long run.

Ann Hardy:

Yes.

Janet Abbate:

So I’m hoping to get some new perspectives on computing in general.

Ann Hardy:

I just wish that somebody would get out and explain to the counselors in the schools that this is a good thing for women to be doing; they’re not going to spend their life behind a computer. You know, they all say, “Well, I don’t want to just spend my life behind a desk, looking at a computer all day”—and that isn’t what it’s like at all!

Janet Abbate:

Again, that’s another thing that comes up in my interviews. It’s not like you have to do that. I mean, some people really want to do that . . .

Ann Hardy:

That’s right.

Janet Abbate:

And they can, and they thrive; but for so many people, it’s so much more social.

Ann Hardy:

It’s so much more social.

Janet Abbate:

Anyway, I’m also trying to counteract this huge sort of myth about computing with an alternate reality. I think you have to get some empirical stories about “What is computing?” to make that more of a reality.

Ann Hardy:

That’s right.

Janet Abbate:

Because all the stories people know are about Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, or some other man. Who can even name a woman in computing?

Ann Hardy:

Yes, that’s right. The men get a lot of PR!

Janet Abbate:

And again, I think it’s sort of a hardware bias. Maybe not Bill Gates, but most of the history is about “Who invented this hunk of iron?”

Ann Hardy:

That’s right. Most of the histories are.

It’s fun to be involved in the history, [but] the guys who press are the guys who go down in history. If you were there, you know who did the work; but if the people who did the work are not out there pushing to get their name in, somebody else does. I don’t know how you solve that problem. It’s very hard for history to be entirely accurate.

Janet Abbate:

You have to start by asking.

Ann Hardy:

You have to start by asking! [both laugh.] That’s right.

Janet Abbate:

I had no idea how many women I would find when I started this, and I was just amazed, given their sort of invisibility in the history, how many there are.

Ann Hardy:

That’s right. There are a lot of women out there, and they’re hard to find.

Janet Abbate:

Well, actually, once you start to look, they’re not so hard to find, and everyone gives you other names. Then you’re scratching your head: “There are so many women, accomplished women. Why haven’t I heard of them before?” That’s what you start to think, once you look beneath the surface.

Earlier Barriers to Women in Computing

Ann Hardy:

Well, I think it was very hard for people who were there in the fifties, sixties and seventies. Women weren’t supposed to be working; women weren’t supposed to have these jobs. The image of a woman who held a responsible job, who was a VP: I mean, when I got promoted to VP at Tymshare, my mother said to me, “How can you do this to me? How can you embarrass me in front of my friends?”

Janet Abbate:

Really!

Ann Hardy:

That’s how bad it was in the seventies.

Janet Abbate:

Now, what did she mind? You already had married and had kids, right?

Ann Hardy:

Right.

Janet Abbate:

So you hadn’t failed in that “duty” . . .

Ann Hardy:

Well, she was not happy that I was still raising my own children, because she didn’t think it was appropriate to be working and raising your children. Now, my kids both turned out just fine, but it wasn’t an easy thing to get past.

Janet Abbate:

Did that just make you “unfeminine,” to be a VP?

Ann Hardy:

I don’t know whether it was unfeminine, or that “Nice girls don’t do that. Nice girls aren’t VPs.” It really was that; it was, “Nice girls don’t do that.”

Janet Abbate:

I guess not that many women were doing it.

Ann Hardy:

Right. There was this sort of image that women who did that were not nice people.

Janet Abbate:

Wow, I hadn’t realized. I knew it was unusual, but I guess I didn’t realize this was considered actively bad.

Ann Hardy:

Yes. It was more than unusual; it was actively bad.

Janet Abbate:

Was there any kind of image of female computing people as some kind of nerds or something? Or were they just totally invisible?

Ann Hardy:

They were totally invisible, back in those days. It was early.

The Movie Desk Set

Janet Abbate:

Did you ever see that film Desk Set, with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn?

Ann Hardy:

No. I should go see it.

Janet Abbate:

It’s from the 1950s. It’s very interesting, because there’s a woman running this computer; she’s from IBM.

Ann Hardy:

Oh, I’ll have to go see this. Desk Set, huh?

Janet Abbate:

Yes. It’s actually a great movie, if you like Katherine Hepburn.

Ann Hardy:

Yes, I do! Okay, I’ll go rent it.

Janet Abbate:

She’s a reference librarian, and he’s coming to automate her department, and there’s this whole thing about “Is he going to put all the librarians out of business?”

Ann Hardy:

Oh, yes.

Janet Abbate:

Of course, there’s a happy ending . . .

Ann Hardy:

All ‘50s movies had happy endings! [laughs.]

Janet Abbate:

But he brings in this IBM computer, and there’s a female programmer or operator . . .

Ann Hardy:

A System Service Girl!

Janet Abbate:

Maybe it’s a System Service Girl—who comes with it, and she’s very negatively portrayed. She’s kind of the foil to Katherine Hepburn, who is just wonderful, and she is this very stiff kind of computer nerd.

Ann Hardy:

Oh, really? Because IBM System Service Girls were really good people.

Janet Abbate:

I’m sure they were. What struck me first was that there is this woman running it; but then there’s this attitude of “Oh, she must be very nerdy.”

Ann Hardy:

“She must be . . . “ Yes, that is definitely . . .

Janet Abbate:

So it’s a little unfortunate. But I’m always curious as to who actually saw this film.

Ann Hardy:

I’ll have to go see that movie.

Janet Abbate:

Other than that, it’s a good movie.

Ann Hardy:

That’s interesting. But it really was not done, in those days.

IBM's "My Fair Ladies" Brochure

Janet Abbate:

Did you ever see—Fran Allen showed me an IBM recruiting brochure called “My Fair Ladies”?

Ann Hardy:

No!

Janet Abbate:

It had quotes from “My Fair Lady,” and . . .

Ann Hardy:

Oh, no, I never did. I would love to see that!

Janet Abbate:

You’ll have to ask her. When you go to the Stretch reunion, you’ll have to ask her.

Ann Hardy:

Fred Brooks had it?

Janet Abbate:

I’m not sure when—I think it must have come out shortly after the musical.

Ann Hardy:

I was gone by that time.

Janet Abbate:

There’s a yellow cover, and there’s a bouquet of flowers with a punch-card attached to it—it’s very over the top. But I guess they were trying to say that computing is a great career for women: you could be in research; you could be doing system service . . .

Women at IBM

Ann Hardy:

I think IBM—in spite of the fact that they didn’t pay me very well! [laughs] —I think they have done a good job. They’ve done a better job than most companies.

Now, you interviewed Fran, so you know how long it took her to become an IBM Fellow.

Janet Abbate:

Right—and she was the first, right?

Ann Hardy:

She was the first.

Janet Abbate:

And there are still not that many women.

Ann Hardy:

There are still not that many; and it took her years after all the men who worked on the same projects. Even at IBM it was very, very hard.

Janet Abbate:

You could get in, but maybe not rise up?

Ann Hardy:

Very hard to; yes. Definitely not easy. Definitely better now. I think that, at least at the lower level, the discrimination is much less. I think there’s much less discrimination now, until you get to the much higher levels, and then it’s still there. It’s still hard to be at the top.

Advantages of a Job in Computing

Janet Abbate:

What have you found most satisfying about being in the computing field?

Ann Hardy:

That almost every day it’s fun to go to work—and I don’t hear very many other people say that about their jobs. I loved what I was doing when I was programming. I loved every minute of programming—just enjoyed it; it was my kind of thing. And then, as I said, once I had kids, being a manager was so easy and so fun, and you get to do so many different things, and you get to leverage all these smart programmers who can produce things. So you get all these things that you always wanted to see done and couldn’t, one at a time, do them yourself. Every day is fun! What a great job! [laughs.] And it’s interesting, because it’s always new. A lot of people work in labs that are just sort of the same thing over and over and over, same thing day in, day out; they run offices; but here I get to decide. For years I got to decide, or at least had a lot of influence on, what project I worked on; what projects other people worked on; and how they got done, and were they getting done well, and were they really meeting the needs of the customers? I think we really focused on the customers and how to get something that really solved new problems. And you get to work with fun people; the guys in Agorics are just great, and our customers are great. So how can you have a better job? I traveled all over . . .

Changes in the Computer Industry

Janet Abbate:

Now, the computer industry, obviously, has seen enormous changes since you started. What stands out particularly for you about how it’s changed over time?

Ann Hardy:

Well, some interesting things. In some ways, it hasn’t changed as much as some people think it’s changed—because the technology has changed, but a lot of the applications that we’re doing today are applications that, as I mentioned earlier, we did back in the seventies! Twenty years ago we were doing some of these same applications.

So in some sense it’s changed, and in some sense it hasn’t changed as much as people think. Once there were good operating systems, we’ve just gotten better at doing the same thing.

Janet Abbate:

Do you find that women end up in certain areas of computing; certain specialties?

Ann Hardy:

I don’t know, since I have had so few women to work with. There were women at Tymshare, but then I was running the division, so they did everything. When I was working at Tymshare and had a big division, hundreds [of people], then women came into my division who wanted to do everything, because they wouldn’t get any flack from me! [laughs.] So I’ve seen women do everything; and I don’t know, honestly, if women tend to migrate toward one kind of thing or another. That’s an interesting question, but I don’t know.

Involvement in Startups

Janet Abbate:

It sounds like you’ve been involved in a lot of startups. At least, almost all the companies you worked for were startups, except for IBM.

Ann Hardy:

And even IBM was certainly very young then, in those days.

Janet Abbate:

Is that something about you, or about the opportunities at the time?

Ann Hardy:

I think it’s about the opportunities. I had no plans. I wasn’t supposed to work. I keep telling you, my mother didn’t like this! [laughs.] So I couldn’t plan very far ahead, because if I thought about it, then somebody would figure it out and try to put some roadblock in my way! [laughs.]

Janet Abbate:

Did that make you more open to risk, in a way?

Ann Hardy:

Probably.

Janet Abbate:

That you didn’t have to . . .

Ann Hardy:

Yes: I never took it very—I shouldn’t say I didn’t take it seriously, because I did; but yes, I think it did make it much easier for me to take risks than it was for other people.

Janet Abbate:

That’s interesting.

Ann Hardy:

And startups are fun, because you can pick your own friends. And it’s especially fun to run a startup, because then you can pick the whole company! [laughs.] You only have to work with people that you really like! It is fun. I’ve just had a lot of good people, a lot of people that are great to work with.

Advice for Women Going into Computing

Janet Abbate:

Do you have any advice for young women who might be thinking of going into computing today?

Ann Hardy:

Do it! Yes, do it: because I think over time they’ll figure out what they like to do and where they like to be; and if you’re not really happy, change jobs, because there are so many different kinds of jobs out there. Save enough money that you can cushion between jobs, because the industry is still one of these up-and-down, comes-and-goes. But if you don’t like what you’re doing now, try something different; because there are so many different kinds of opportunity out there, and there’s so much opportunity for different kinds of creativity, that almost anybody could find something. I think it’s a great field, and I just think it’s a shame that more women don’t know that.

Janet Abbate:

Do you wish you’d done anything differently?

Ann Hardy:

Well, not much—because, as I said, it’s been fun to go to work every day, and it’s hard to beat that! I don’t look back on periods where it was a drag; I didn’t really have periods where it was boring. I wish I had fought harder for equal salaries, so I’d have more in the bank. It’s important to get reasonable compensation, so I wish I’d fought harder for equal salaries; but other than that . . . It’s been fun almost every day to go to work, so I don’t think that a lot of people have a much better life.

Janet Abbate:

That’s great.

Ann Hardy:

And I loved having kids, and I don’t see [a conflict]. Certainly in my day, when I was doing it, it wasn’t . . . You can’t have everything: you can’t be VP while your children are under five, so you can’t do everything at once; but there’s obviously plenty of time to do things once they get a little older. You know, you can’t have everything at once—but the guys don’t get everything at once, either. That’s a myth. It’s just more obvious with women. So you really can try it all; you can have it all and enjoy it all.

The kids were fun, because I did a lot of traveling, and I could take the kids with me; so the kids have been all over the world! I started taking them when they were early teens—eleven, twelve—so they’d remember something. So they’ve been all over, and they got to do a lot of stuff that a lot of other kids didn’t get to do.

Janet Abbate:

So the company was supportive of that, or you just took them on your own?

Ann Hardy:

I just took them along. I found a way. Somebody would come along and watch them when they were young, but by the time they were teenagers: teenagers are off on their own anyway; teach them how to use the bus system in a new town and they could do it, and they would take care of themselves. They got to hang out in a lot of cities that other kids didn’t get to see, and didn’t get to see in quite the same way.

I can’t complain. It’s treated me fairly well! In spite of the fact that I had a much harder time than the men in the field, it still treated me well.

Janet Abbate:

Well, thank you so much for talking to me!

[END OF INTERVIEW PROPER]

  [This recording also captured a follow-on conversation about Tymnet, the Internet, and network security.]

Differences between Tymnet and ARPANET

Janet Abbate:

Do you have more questions for me?

Ann Hardy:

I have a question which is a completely separate subject, and that is about the Internet and your book. What I do when I read that is compare it to Tymnet.

Janet Abbate:

Right.

Ann Hardy:

And I look at what were the requirements: What were Tymnet’s requirements? What were the ARPANET requirements? How did we approach things; what influenced the outcome; and if we’d had different requirements, how would things have been different today? And the major differences seem to stem from the fact that Tymnet always had to make money.

Janet Abbate:

Right! I mean, ARPANET was incredibly uneconomic.

Ann Hardy:

So uneconomical! Our nodes were like ten percent of the cost of their nodes and had the same functions. Our overhead per packet—I mean, ours weren’t exactly the same, but similar—was so much lower than theirs.

I sit down and get my mail and I think: One of the things that we had to do was, everybody had to pay; and you change the way you use resources. One of the things we learned at Tymshare, writing the operating system, was: In the beginning, Tymshare charged all their customers just for connect time; ten dollars an hour for connect time. Then, after a while, we started charging for resources—so much for memory, so much for disk, so much per character; so you really got charged for the way you used the resources. It made a huge difference in the way people used the computers. And as they became more efficient, it allowed Tymshare to grow in better ways, because you really understood what people needed as resources—instead of when they could just exploit something.

Janet Abbate:

They didn’t have any feedback.

Ann Hardy:

They had no feedback! I mean, it wasn’t entirely their fault; they didn’t have any way of knowing what the various costs were. So people got much more efficient at the way they did things. Charging made a big difference.

I look at the Internet and say, “Tymnet would have charged for everything. I wouldn’t be getting spam if I were on Tymnet, because you couldn’t afford to send it!” Now, it might not be very much; you might not charge the spammers very much to send anything, but at least you would have some way of feeding back the price pressure on those people. They would really have to be more selective about who they sent things to. They would have to be more targeted, because if there was some cost involved, it would be much different. I think the whole resources of the Internet are still way too expensive: more than they need to be, if the whole thing had been thought about from an economic point of view.

So, I just wondered if any of those issues ever come up, and if people every wonder about, “How do you evolve the Internet into something [more cost-effective?]” Maybe nobody sees it, but it looked to me like a big advantage that Tymnet had, that it was built on a real economic model instead of just on infinite funding.

Janet Abbate:

Well, right! I mean, that’s certainly one of my arguments in the book, that the network is totally shaped by these kinds of conditions. “Well, we’re high performance; we’re the military, and we’re just going to throw a lot of money at this and get a cruise missile on the network!”

Ann Hardy:

And it’s not clear they came out with anything that had any advantages. I don’t know.

Janet Abbate:

I think it had some advantages in things like robustness. I think it was useful to have that as a criterion, because that’s useful in civilian life.

Ann Hardy:

I’m not sure we didn’t have the same criteria, and I’m not sure we didn’t do as well! Because we couldn’t let our network go down either, or we lost money; so robustness was equally strong, I think, at Tymnet.

Janet Abbate:

But at least it was something that they were concerned about.

To me, one of the more interesting things is the heterogeneity of the system, which is not necessarily the most economic way.

Ann Hardy:

Again, it wasn’t economic. Tymnet hooked up a lot of networks, but not the ones that were not economical. Again, we have an economic driver.

Janet Abbate:

But I think that’s one reason the Internet is still around. I think it made it easier to adapt. Once you decide that anything goes, then when you come up with something new like Ethernet, which is pretty different from the previous infrastructure, you can adapt to that. So I theorize that that’s one reason it’s still around.

Tymnet and ARPANET Connections

Ann Hardy:

Did you know that Tymnet tied into all those other networks, too?

Janet Abbate:

I know it exchanged mail.

Ann Hardy:

It did. You could get from any one of those networks into any place on Tymnet.

Janet Abbate:

Because I remember when I was first using computers in the early ‘80s, I was aware of people using Tymnet. So it certainly had a presence then, even if you weren’t specifically looking for it.

Ann Hardy:

Yes. I just find it interesting why.... I know that we didn’t push Tymnet hard, for anything besides just our own....

Janet Abbate:

Well, Tymnet seems in a way more like the telecoms networks. The public data networks in Europe, I think, had a more similar philosophy, although they were sort of doctrinaire about interconnection. “We don’t really want to deal with anyone who’s not a telephone company”—which I think was their big problem, which wasn’t your problem.

Ann Hardy:

Right. Definitely their big problem.

Janet Abbate:

I think in some ways that’s a more parallel thing, and I guess they’re still running those public networks.

Ann Hardy:

Yes, I think so. That’s interesting.

Janet Abbate:

It was just kind of brute force, in some ways. DOD said, “TCP/IP: we’re going to make everyone use this.”

Ann Hardy:

“Everybody’s going to use this or else.”

Janet Abbate:

“If you want our funding, you have to use this.” I tried to get at that. They didn’t have to prove it was best; they just had to do it.

Ann Hardy:

They just had to do it.

Janet Abbate:

It’s good, in a way, that somebody set a standard.

Ann Hardy:

It just would have been a good idea [to consider other options]. And maybe TCP/IP is the best, except that it’s got some weaknesses in it. I don’t know if at the time it was better, but it would have been good to look at a protocol that covered . . .

Network Security

Janet Abbate:

You may have had more security, and that’s one weakness of TCP/IP.

Ann Hardy:

Security: it just wasn’t ever thought about. We, of course, had to think about it, because we were handling other people’s money.

Janet Abbate:

Now, the way DOD thought about it was to build totally separate networks.

Ann Hardy:

But that’s not what networks are all about.

Janet Abbate:

“We’ll just have some NSA network that’s just not connected to anything else.” I mean, there’s stuff I don’t even know about, because it’s secret. For all I know they have a hundred other networks that nobody knows about! [laughs.]

Ann Hardy:

I’m sure they do.

Janet Abbate:

And as far as I can tell, that was really the mainstay of their idea about security. Maybe they just thought it was impossible, so don’t even bother.

Ann Hardy:

If we would think about security and design it in, then the productivity and the value of the networks would go way up. And I’m inclined to think that that’s possible, and we’re just not doing it.

Janet Abbate:

Or accounting, for that matter. Doing that stuff after the fact is . . .

Ann Hardy:

. . . really hard.

Janet Abbate:

There’s just no infrastructure for that.

Ann Hardy:

Yes.

Janet Abbate:

So there are good and bad things. It definitely bears the marks of where it came from. I don’t know if it’s the best of all possible systems. I think there are some things that turned out to be . . .

Ann Hardy:

Some things obviously turned out to be really good, because there are a lot of benefits to it.

Janet Abbate:

So I think it’s not ideal, but it’s robust in that it’s at least open to change, in a way that a more closed system wouldn’t be. I think enough decisions were right that it at least survives. It seems that every few years there’s some crisis about whatever it is that year—with domain names, or with security, or whatever—but it somehow survives; and I think that’s impressive, given the growth that nobody expected.

Ann Hardy:

It’s pretty impressive that it has done as well as it’s done.

Janet Abbate:

So I can’t help thinking there’s something right.

Ann Hardy:

There is certainly a lot right. But how do you evolve it now? Wherever you started back then, it would have needed a lot of evolution at this point. How do you evolve it into all it could be, and all we can now see that networks would be good for? It’s tricky.

Janet Abbate:

I’m going to be talking to Dorothy Denning.

Ann Hardy:

Oh yes! Are you talking to her?

Janet Abbate:

Yes. I met her when they gave her the Ada Lovelace Award. I’m going to be talking with her, so I’m hoping to hear her take on security.

Ann Hardy:

Yes. My take is that nobody’s doing it, and they could be. We had more security in Tymshare than anybody’s got now.

Janet Abbate:

Well, I’m just surprised that there’s not as much demand, or that people aren’t willing to pay for it.

Ann Hardy:

People aren’t willing to pay for it. They talk about it, and they don’t seem to understand how vulnerable they are.

Janet Abbate:

That’s what I’m wondering. I mean, sure, you don’t want to pay for anything; but you would think the cost-benefit would be more obvious with security, and I’m wondering why it’s not.

Ann Hardy:

I think there’s a couple things. I’m not sure people keep very close tabs on what lack of security costs them. We did work with a company who appointed a Security Manager, and he reorganized the way the company looked at their losses, and then had a target. He got everybody to agree on how much they were losing every year, and what their risks were, and then he could afford to go back and add security. But without a good Security Director, I don’t think most companies really look at how much of what they lose every year could have been avoided by having better computer security. I think the other problem is that, since nobody’s looking at it and nobody’s buying it, people don’t really know that you can have computer security! It went out with Tymshare.

Janet Abbate:

You would think the liability—you know, there are companies where somebody breaks in and takes ten thousand of your clients’ credit card numbers. You would think the potential liability would be so great that companies would want to invest in security.

Ann Hardy:

But the company itself doesn’t pay. Some insurance company pays, and most of [the stolen credit cards] aren’t used, and it’s all covered. The loss on credit cards every year is huge, but they’re still profitable, so why does anybody care? As long as the consumer is willing to pay enough to cover the losses, it’s just not very important.

Janet Abbate:

Someone has to sue the company for the liability for its bad security.

Ann Hardy:

Right. But you’re not going to make much on your credit card, because you’re only out fifty bucks.

There’s a lot of potential out there, and I think that if there really was security, there would be a lot more of what we used to call “e-business” going on. It’s really put the damper on doing business over the Internet. Lots of things aren’t happening that could, because of the lack of security. Companies realize they can’t afford to put stuff out there, and don’t seem to realize that a small increment in cost [to pay for security] would save them a lot of money over time. Hopefully, things will change and evolve, but I don’t think security is a very big. We do a lot of it, but there are very few people, still, that are really willing to pay for just security.

Janet Abbate:

I think, as a user—I mean, I’m not a company—I’d be willing to pay something for more security for my personal transactions; but I don’t know any way I can do that.

Ann Hardy:

You can’t do anything about it.

Janet Abbate:

And that’s part of what not having it built in, I think, does.

Ann Hardy:

Right. There’s nothing that the consumer [can do].

Janet Abbate:

There are so many people who say, “I won’t do anything on the Internet, because it’s not secure.” Presumably there’s some threshold. If you told them, “Pay a nickel and it’ll be secure,” a lot of them would probably do it. What’s the threshold? It’s probably more than a nickel, but . . .

Ann Hardy:

Well, it’s not clear that—well, it depends on what you’re doing; but dealing with reputable companies over the Internet, it’s not clear to me that it’s not as secure as going down to the store.

Janet Abbate:

Or if you call up some place on the phone and give your credit card number, which a lot of these same people are willing to do.

Ann Hardy:

It’s probably more secure than that, because it’s probably not going actually through somebody’s hands. So at least somebody has to dig around to find your credit card number if it’s all automated, whereas if you call up over the phone and you’re talking to somebody and you give them [the number, they have it].

Janet Abbate:

And at least the message is usually encrypted.

Ann Hardy:

The transactions are encrypted. When you send your credit card in, that part of the transaction is always—for the big companies—it’s always encrypted.

Janet Abbate:

Right. Which is more than you can say for the phone call.