Great Unsung Women of Computing: The Computers, The Coders and The Future Makers

A 3-part series by Kathy Kleiman, Jon Palfreman and Kate McMahon

US | 2016 | 48 minutes | Color | DVD | Order No. 161181


In the United States, women are vastly underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields, holding under 25% of STEM jobs and a disproportionately low share of STEM undergraduate degrees. Great Unsung Women of Computing is a series of three remarkable documentary films that show how women revolutionized the computing and Internet technology we use today, inspiring female students to believe that programming careers lie within their grasp.

The Computers features the extraordinary story of the ENIAC Programmers, six young women who programmed the world’s first modern, programmable computer, ENIAC, as part of a secret WWII project. They programmed ENIAC without programming language (for none existed), and harnessed its power to perform advanced military calculations at lighting speeds. However, when the ENIAC was unveiled in 1946, the Programmers were never introduced and they became invisible. This stunning documentary features rare footage and never-before-seen interviews with the ENIAC Programmers. 70 years later, this is their story.

The Coders tells the story of two extraordinary women, Sarah Allen and Pavni Diwanji whose technologies revolutionized the Internet: Sarah co-invented Flash, the first multimedia platform supporting video, graphics, games and animation for the internet, while Pavni invented the Java servlet to allow web applications to respond quickly to requests from users everywhere.

In The Future Makers, Andrea Colaço, a young MIT PhD, shares her dream of a world in which we interact with our smart devices using natural hand gestures, not static keyboards or touchpads. She invented 3D “gestural recognition technology” and co-founded 3dim to develop and market it. In 2013, 3dim won MIT’s $100K Entrepreneurship Prize and launched Andrea towards her dream of innovation and changing the world.


"This inspiring title highlights the accomplishments of pioneering women."

Candace Smith Booklist

“THE COMPUTERS is a unique and powerful documentary… This still under-appreciated story of how women helped initiate the computer revolution provides inspiring female role models for future generations."

Tim Bartik, Senior Economist Upjohn Institute

"By watching THE COMPUTERS, the history, personalities, and dynamism of six amazing programmers came to life for me. Kathryn Kleiman's groundbreaking film teaches all of us that we need ask to our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers about their contributions to science and the world."

B.K. Adams Assc. Director. Communications, University of Maryland

“History's female programmers will no longer be forgotten…Kleiman is building a future that looks different from a history that's been airbrushed to look more male than it really was."

"Watching THE COMPUTERS was an eye opening experience for all of us… these women paved the way for the next generation."

Professor Samir Khuller University of Maryland


  • United Nations Association Film Festival, Grand Jury Award, Best Short Documentary
  • Seattle International Film Festival
  • Inspirefest Dublin 2015
  • Paris International Lesbian & Feminist Film Festival


Kathy Kleiman

Kathy Kleiman discovered the ENIAC Programmers as an undergraduate at Harvard. She wrote her senior thesis on how their pivotal role in early programming was completely missing from computing history. A decade later, after learning that few of the Programmers were invited to the ENIAC’s 50th Anniversary, she set out to set the record straight: to record their oral histories, seek recognition for their accomplishments and produce a documentary to tell their dramatic story. THE COMPUTERS is the culmination of that work.

In speeches and screenings around the world, Kathy shares: "The ENIAC Programmers inspired me to stay in computing at a time when every other signal in society was urging me to turn away. It is my great hope that their story will throw open the doors of computing to all!"

Inspired by the ENIAC Programmers, Kathy continued her studies in computer science. She then managed international data networks, attended law school and became one of the first attorneys to enter the field of Internet policy. She is part of the group that created ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) where she continues to develop policy for the global domain name system.

Kathy speaks about the ENIAC Programmers (and domain name policy) in forums around the world. She is the recipient of the March of Dimes Heroines in Technology Lifetime Achievement Award for her efforts to preserve the ENIAC Programmers' inspirational story for generations to come. (1/16)

Jon Palfreman

A veteran of both UK and US television, Jon Palfreman has made over 40 BBC and PBS one-hour documentaries including the Peabody Award winning series “The Machine That Changed the World”, the Emmy Award winning NOVA “Siamese Twins” and the Alfred I. duPont&ndahs;Columbia University Silver Baton winner “Harvest of Fear.” Palfreman has received many awards honoring the quality and accuracy of his journalism. The recipient of the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Writing, Palfreman is three-time winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science science writing prize, three-time winner of the National Association of Science Writers Science-in-Society Journalism Award and a winner of the Writers Guild Award for best script. In the area of Parkinson’s disease research, Palfreman co-authored a book with neuroscientist Bill Langston, The Case of the Frozen Addicts, and produced two NOVA documentaries chronicling the story of the MPTP cases, NOVA: The Case of the Frozen Addict, and NOVA: Brain Transplant. A 2006 Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University, Palfreman is currently KEZI Distinguished Professor of Broadcast Journalism at the University of Oregon. (1/16)

Kate McMahon

Kate McMahon has contributed to more than 40 hours of national documentary and long-format news programming, primarily for PBS, since she began her career in 1998 as an Associate Producer for The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. Today, she produces and co-produces documentaries for the PBS series FRONTLINE, independent films, digital channels and PBS stations. Her current film is about the history of women in computing for Google Family Foundations—release date 2014. Recent film projects include FRONTLINE: Life and Death in Assisted Living (2013); FRONTLINE: Nuclear Aftershocks (2012); FRONTLINE: The Vaccine War (2010); FRONTLINE: Sick Around America (2009) and FRONTLINE: Sick Around the World (2008). In 2008, Kate’s co-production of the 2-hour historical film Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil and the Presidency premiered on PBS. In 2004 Kate associate–produced the Oscar–nominated film ENRON: The Smartest Guys in the Room and in 2005 co–produced FRONTLINE: The Meth Epidemic. In 2001, while working at ABC NEWS Nightline, Kate covered the tragic events of 9/11 from New York City. She went on to work for NOW with Bill Moyers covering the nexus of business and politics in Washington, D.C. Her on–going production of Inside the Psychologist’s Studio is a popular web series for the Association for Psychological Science. Outside of producing documentaries rooted in journalism, Kate has produced and reported public radio programs and published articles in Metro Parent Magazine. She enjoys living in Portland, OR with her husband, two children, their fluffy dog and pink fish. (1/16)


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