Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pre-Ada Day #1: Limor Fried

(This post is for Ada Lovelace day, a new media event about raising awareness about women in technology.)

One of the hazards of being an aspiring woman in technology (and I speak from personal experience here!) is that you spend a great deal of time on related websites, forums, chat rooms, and other 'geek related' sites. And women in most of these places are non-existent. Not vastly outnumbered, not ignored, but non-existent. Try posting something, anything on, say, Slashdot with a female user name. Here are the responses you'll get (unless things have greatly changed in the last 2 years - which I doubt). If you're lucky: "OMG! A girl" or "It's the only girl on /." If unlucky? "Pix pls!" or "Wanna Cyber?".

Lovely, isn't it? You quickly learn to use a male pseudonym.

Given that a million tech-interested teenagers are spending their formative years at these sorts of places, I wouldn't be surprised if this "women don't exist on the Internet" attitude wasn't primarily responsible for the overall lack of women in technology. You see, everyone's heard of Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper, and a dozen women Google and Microsoft employees, but they're just not... cool. They don't have much geek cred., if you will.

Enter Limor Fried, geek goddess extraordinarie!

Her biography page says, "Hello, my name is Limor & I'm an engineer," She's an EE (electrical engineer), she has a masters from MIT, and she has one of the most interesting tech websites anywhere.

Her site contains an immense number of original, useful, and fascinating projects, from SIM card readers to a universal TV power button. She has a company, adafruit industries, which sells kits for electronic projects, and she operates one of the most intelligent (high SNR!) electronics forums I've ever seen. Her pages on multimeter use and PIC vs. AVR microntrollers are currently the most popular on the Internet.

Her original claim to fame was the wave bubble, a portable cell phone jammer. She wrote an amazing thesis for MIT about the jammer (she calls it 'electrical engineering art') It basically posits that technology is taking over our lives, and we need to be able to control it. Thus, the jammer (and a pair of TV darkening glasses). I highly recommend reading the thesis - it's excellent, and not boring at all.

In short, Limor Fried is one of the coolest people on the Internet. Oh - and she happens to be a woman!

(Crossposted at Constant Thoughts)


Adafruit said...

happy lady ada day! thanks for the kind words!


pants said...

I am happy to see that limor fried is so successful. She apparently runs a pretty good business and is taken seriously among a lot of the hacker-crowed, from what I understand. I think a lot of women get the "oh you're so so so smart" attitude that stops at "you're so fucking smart" and doesn't really go any place else beyond that. I've watched some of her videos and have read a couple of her magazines and am really quite pleased that she's made progress past that. Also, I don't know if it's a direct influence from her but I am also pleased that there are so many pictures girls and women testing-out projects, doing diy-type things and whatnot in make magazine. It totally warms my heart.