For our most recent assignment we did something that was cool and entirely outside my comfort zone. This week we were tasked with taking on the persona of an influential figure from the history of the information age and creating a Facebook profile and several posts from their perspective. As someone who does not use social media that often, I was more than a bit apprehensive about using Facebook as a medium for a project. That apprehension only increased once I realized the figure I had chosen to “impersonate” was still alive. That, and the person who sits across from me apparently had her entire project deleted off Facebook and was promptly banned because she was using a “high profile” person. The only solace I found was when I discovered she was 96 years old, and possibly does not use Facebook. Just to be on the safe side, I took screenshots of my posts and will be including them in this blog post as a backup, lest all my progress for this assignment be lost.
Like the previous assignment, Live Tweeting Historical Events, I wanted to pick someone who I had never heard of. I honestly enjoy doing assignments like these because they give me an opportunity to explore obscure parts of history, and I sometimes feel like the history of the information age is as obscure as you can get, since it is still a developing field. Anyways, the person I chose was Erna Schneider Hoover. Hoover is most famously known for being the inventor of the electronic telephone switching system (ESS), which is the software that made call centers obsolete and made improved phone traffic. In other words, she made it possible for phone traffic to “switch” on its own instead of having to wait around for an operator to connect your call. Hoover worked for Bell Labs for 32 years. Over the course of her life she contributed to a number of different projects with Bell Labs. In the 1960s she worked on the antiballistic missile defense system – which successfully intercepted mock ICBM warheads before the program was banned by treaty. In 1971, Hoover was granted a patent for the software governing electronic call switching system, which was one of the first software patents issued in the United States. In 1978, she became the first female head of a research division at Bell Labs, where she worked on the application of artificial intelligence to communications systems. She is a forerunner in computer science, communications development, information systems.
The thing I like the most about Hoover is her perseverance. As a woman in the early twentieth century, Hoover faced sexism throughout most of her life. From a young age she was determined to be successful, earning her B.A. from Wellesley College in 1948 and her Ph.D. from Yale University in 1951. She taught logic at Swarthmore College straight out of graduate school before being hired by Bell Labs in 1954. The most remarkable part? It was during that time she met her husband, Charles Hoover Jr., who also worked for Bell Labs as an engineer. Her husband supported her, as a woman, as his wife, and as the mother of his children. Hoover did most of her work while caring for her children, and even devised most of the logic systems for the ESS while in a hospital bed after giving birth to their second child. It’s always heartwarming to learn about relationships like this, but to think he was supporting her well before the 1970s feminist movement makes me smile.
For my posts I decided to include reference to a lot of these points in Hoover’s life. However, there is even more to be found on the Facebook Profile I created for her. It is not fully complete, because Facebook limits you on a lot of information if you are not friends with individuals. I also ran into a few issues with dates. For instance, there is the option the tag your spouse on Facebook. I was able to create a marker that said “Married since 1953” but I could not get the profile to display her husband’s name. Why? The spouse must have a profile, a request must be sent and approved, and only then will if show up. I then decided to go a roundabout way and create a Life Event and title it “Married to Charles Hoover Jr.” only for Facebook not let me go back farther than 1960. Then there was the issue of including her children, which ultimately ended with me just adding first names under the “relationship” tab and leaving it at that. Another issue that occurred was with locations. If Facebook does not recognize a place, it will not allow you to tag it. I ran into the issue with two locations: Swarthmore, Pennsylvania and Murray Hill, New Jersey. Swarthmore, P.A. is the location of Swarthmore College, where Hoover worked after graduate school. Facebook appears to recognize Swarthmore College as an institution but refuses to recognize the actual location. Murray Hill, N.J. is the location of the headquarters for Nokia Bell Labs. Again, Facebook will recognize Nokia Bell Labs as a company, but apparently Murray Hill does not exist! This combined with what little bits of information I could find about Erna Schneider Hoover made creating the profile a bit frustrating.
Overall, this project was very interesting. I especially enjoyed being able to see the posts from the rest of the class and having the ability to comment from the perspective of the person we each were representing. It was like taking living history to another level by include modern communications methods. That just makes the assignment all the more meta, since each of these individuals have contributed to the history of communication in some way. I learned a lot about the information age just by looking into this one person’s life. I think the knowledge I gained from this assignment will be extremely helpful for the next one involving the Timeline. I look forward to seeing all the posts and comments the others include on this assignment, especially since we all picked fascinating individuals!
As I stated above, I’m going to include screenshots of my main posts throughout the course of Hoover’s life. A bibliography of all sources I used for this assignment will also be included below. I used one book for most of this informative and all the photos, which was David Chandler and Alfred Brown’s Inventing Modern America: From the Microwave to the Mouse. It was a very informative book that provided an abundant amount of background information on Hoover, her work, and the importance of contributions. The rest of my sources were merely background reading and get a feel for who Hoover was a a person and to try and capture her voice. Thanks for reading!
Chandler, David E., Alfred D. Brown, and Lemelson Center. Inventing Modern America: From the Microwave to the Mouse. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002.
Eckhart, Barry J., and Erna S. Hoover. “United States Patent No. 3,623,007.” US Patent & Trademark Office, Patent Full Text and Image Database, November 23, 1971. http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PALL&s1=3,623,007.PN.&OS=PN/3,623,007&RS=PN/3,623,007.
Jordan, Robyn. “‘Mount Codemore’ Honors Four Women Technology Titans.” New Relic Blog, April 26, 2016. https://blog.newrelic.com/culture/mount-codemore-women-in-technology/.
Lee, Anne. “Today We Celebrate the Invaluable Contributions of Women Technologists at Nokia Bell Labs.” Nokia Bell Labs, March 8, 2021. https://www.bell-labs.com/institute/blog/today-we-celebrate-invaluable-contributions-women-technologists-nokia-bell-labs/#gref.
National Inventors Hall of Fame. “NIHF Inductee Erna Schneider Hoover Invented the Telephone Switching System.” www.invent.org, 2008. https://www.invent.org/inductees/erna-schneider-hoover.
“Software Switch.” Technology Review 104, no. 3 (April 2001): 104. http://search.ebscohost.com.umw.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bft&AN=500722937&site=ehost-live.
The Star-Ledger. “Charles Hoover Obituary (2017).” Legacies, May 21, 2017. https://obits.nj.com/obituaries/starledger/obituary.aspx?n=charles-hoover&pid=185507131.
Wellesley College. “Erna Schneider Hoover.” Wellesley College, 1990. https://www.wellesley.edu/alumnae/awards/achievementawards/allrecipients/erna-schneider-hoover-48.