Jump to content

Lynn Conway, Contributor To Out Of Order Instruction Scheduling, Desktop Computing at Xerox PARC, VLSI Circuit Design, and Transwoman Dead at 86.

Uttamattamakin

Summary

Lynn Conway a great inspiration to transwomen since the late 1990's or early 2000's when she came quietly out as trans has died at age 86.  She made contributions you are using right now to view this website.  She was partially responsible for VLSI circuit design, processors that execute instructions out of order,  network technologies that would become internet e-commerce,  and many aspects of modern desktop computing. 

 

Quotes

https://computerhistory.org/profile/lynn-conway/

Quote

Lynn Conway was born in Mount Vernon, N.Y., in 1938. After studying physics at M.I.T., and earning a B.S. (1962) and M.S.E.E. (1963) at Columbia University, Lynn joined IBM Research in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Working on IBM's Advanced Computing Systems project, she made foundational contributions to computer architecture including invention of multiple-out-of-order dynamic instruction scheduling.  

 

Sadly, IBM fired Lynn as she underwent gender transition in 1968. Starting all over again in a covert new identity, Lynn advanced rapidly to become a computer architect at Memorex, but also began decades living in fear of being 'outed' and again losing her career.

 

Recruited by Xerox PARC in 1973, Lynn invented scalable design rules for VLSI chip design, became principal author of the famous Mead-Conway text Introduction to VLSI systems, and in 1978, while serving as a Visiting Associate Professor of EECS at M.I.T., pioneered the teaching of the new digital system design methods - thereby launching a revolution in microchip design in the 1980's.

 

While at PARC Lynn also invented and demonstrated an internet e-commerce infrastructure for rapid chip prototyping, spawning the "fabless-design + silicon-foundry" paradigm of semiconductor design and manufacturing. Institutionalized by DARPA at USC-ISI, the resulting "MOSIS" system enabled the rapid development of thousands of chip designs, leading to many major startups in the 80's and beyond.

 

 

https://www.them.us/story/lynn-conway-computer-scientist-trans-advocate#:~:text=Fired by IBM in 1968,of highly efficient computer processors.&text=Lynn Conway%2C a pioneering computer,She was 86 years old.

Quote

Trans Computer Scientist Lynn Conway, Whose Work Revolutionized Microchips, Has Died


Fired by IBM in 1968 over her transition, Conway paved the way for the development of highly efficient computer processors.

In the aftermath of losing her job and family, Conway started over as a scientist at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, working on the company’s secretive “Project Y.” There, she collaborated with colleague Carver Mead to create the revolutionary Mead-Conway method of microchip design in 1979, enabling the development of highly efficient processors like the Pentium chip. Following a two-year stint working on machine intelligence at the Department of Defense, Conway became an associate dean for instruction and instructional technology at the University of Michigan in 1985, where she worked until retiring in 1998. She met her husband Charlie in 1987, and the two later married in 2002.

 

“My field would not exist without Lynn Conway,” said Valeria Bertacco, a UM computer science professor and Vice Provost for Engaged Learning, in an obituary posted by the university on Tuesday. “Chips used to be designed by drawing them with paper and pencil like an architect’s blueprints in the pre-digital era. Conway’s work developed algorithms that enabled our field to use software to arrange millions, and later billions, of transistors on a chip.”

 

This is a bit more from the Washington Post Via MSN

https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/other/lynn-conway-microchip-pioneer-and-trans-rights-advocate-dies-at-86/ar-BB1oc7cU?ocid=msedgntp&pc=U531&cvid=64759ec1978845378b9bc9861ac4612b&ei=13

Quote

By then, the shift their work brought about had been dubbed “the Mead-Conway revolution,” although Ms. Conway and others said that the names could have easily been reversed.

“Mead probably thinks it was 80/20 him,” she told Britain’s Independent newspaper last year. “Most people, I think, in the long term, will find it was really 80/20 me.”

 

However you divvied up credit, Mead said, her contributions were undeniable.

“Without her leadership,” he told the Independent, “I think the VLSI revolution would have taken much longer.”

In part, Ms. Conway acknowledged, she had avoided the spotlight intentionally, living in “stealth mode” for fear that her gender identity would wreck her career. It had already cost her her job once, when she was fired from IBM in 1968 after confiding to managers that she was planning to undergo gender-confirmation surgery, a then-novel procedure that she had to travel to Mexico to receive.

Quote

“In many jurisdictions, I could have been arrested and charged as a sex offender — or, worse yet, institutionalized and forced to undergo electroshock therapy in a mental hospital,” she wrote in a 2013 essay for HuffPost.

My thoughts

 

From a pure tech enthusiast perspective one can argue that no scientists who invented or contributed to the technology we use now really mattered.  I mean someone would've invented it right?  At the same time Lynn Conway actually did so it matters.  Without that person, you would not have a computer quite as you know it.  Surely you'd have a device of similar abilities but not the one you have in front of you.  It might be better, it might be worse we can't know.  

Superscalar architecture grew out of work she took part in at IBM. 

 

Desktop computing as we know it grew out of work she did at Xerox PARC. 

 

She claimed that the woman who said they were giving Apple the Kitchen sink by showing them everything, in "Pirates of Silicon Valley" was based loosely on her.  As well as a character who was in the movie WarGames someone who did the same sort of work she did appeared.  Sounds crazy but it is credible.  In a way filtered through Hollywood, she has influenced people into technology who otherwise would not have considered it. 

I myself am a scientist and a professor and work on LISA not really because of her but with her example in mind I knew it was possible. I knew I could still be a scientist and be trans.  I knew that kinds of work that at the time were not really thought of as being open to trans women in the early 00's and earlier were still possible for me.   There was a time when I got accepted to both beauty school and also graduate school.  Her example nudged me towards graduate school.  Now I work with NASA in part due to her example.  

Now you have the computers you do in part because of her work.  Sure, someone else might of done it... but she did. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2024-06-11/lynn-conway-leading-computer-scientist-and-transgender-pioneer-dies-at-85

https://www.them.us/story/lynn-conway-computer-scientist-trans-advocate#:~:text=Fired by IBM in 1968,of highly efficient computer processors.&text=Lynn Conway%2C a pioneering computer,She was 86 years old.

https://computerhistory.org/profile/lynn-conway/

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

42 minutes ago, TempestCatto said:

I've never heard of this person until just now. It's crazy how many important people, that are responsible for the everyday things we use, aren't well known.

Especially farther back in computing history.  Foundational contributions to computers as we know them were made and the farther back they were the more foundational they were. 

Few in the 60's and 70's were able to contribute as much as she did.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

24 minutes ago, TempestCatto said:

I've never heard of this person until just now. It's crazy how many important people, that are responsible for the everyday things we use, aren't well known.

Neither did I. What a person.

My Rigs | CPU: Ryzen 9 5900X | Motherboard: ASRock X570 Taichi | CPU Cooler: NZXT Kraken X62 | GPU: AMD Radeon Powercolor 7800XT Hellhound | RAM: 32GB of G.Skill Trident Z Neo @3600MHz | PSU: EVGA SuperNova 750W G+ | Case: Fractal Design Define R6 USB-C TG | SSDs: WD BLACK SN850X 2TB, Samsung 970 EVO 1TB, Samsung 860 EVO 1TB | SSHD: Seagate FireCuda 2TB (Backup) | HDD: Seagate IronWolf 4TB (Backup of Other PCs) | Capture Card: AVerMedia Live Gamer HD 2 | Monitors: AOC G2590PX & Acer XV272U Pbmiiprzx | UPS: APC BR1500GI Back-UPS Pro | Keyboard: Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 | Mouse: Razer Naga Pro | OS: Windows 10 Pro 64bit

First System: Dell Dimension E521 with AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+, 3GB DDR2 RAM

 

PSU Tier List          AMD Motherboard Tier List          SSD Tier List

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

31 minutes ago, TempestCatto said:

I've never heard of this person until just now. It's crazy how many important people, that are responsible for the everyday things we use, aren't well known.

Right? It seems like the home computer revolution of the late 1970s was the first generation of computer engineers most people have actually heard of. They stood on the shoulders of unsung giants.

I sold my soul for ProSupport.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Uttamattamakin said:

My thoughts


Superscalar architecture grew out of work she took part in at IBM. 

Superscalar architecture existed before she ever had a job. I'm sure she made contributions along with countless others.

 

1 hour ago, Uttamattamakin said:

Desktop computing as we know it grew out of work she did at Xerox PARC. 

Right and also the work of hundreds of other people.

 

 

1 hour ago, Uttamattamakin said:

She claimed that the woman who said they were giving Apple the Kitchen sink by showing them everything, in "Pirates of Silicon Valley" was based loosely on her. 

 

Really? Because that was Adele Goldberg. Here is a documentary where she talks about it.

 

Quote

As well as a character who was in the movie WarGames someone who did the same sort of work she did appeared.  Sounds crazy but it is credible.

Not credible at all given her previous false claim.

 

A great computer scientist no doubt but a lot of hyperbole being thrown around here to create a certain narrative.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, dilpickle said:

......

She never claimed to have done all of these things herself but to have contributed to them.

 

You know real science and engineering are team efforts.

 

Also the Computer History Museum is the source for a lot of these things so write them an angry letter.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, Uttamattamakin said:

She never claimed to have done all of these things herself

She may not have but some of the links you provided certainly do. Especially that ridiculous tweet.

 

And I didn't see anything about her supposed movie roles. Did you just make that up?

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, dilpickle said:

She may not have but some of the links you provided certainly do. Especially that ridiculous tweet.

Take it up with the computer museum.  

 

2 hours ago, dilpickle said:

And I didn't see anything about her supposed movie roles. Did you just make that up?

 

She wasn't an actor in the movies,  but on her website it is a claim she herself made and it is plausible.  She did the kinds of work that the people depicted in those movies did.  Also remember in the movies they tend to make characters inspired by more than one person.  Unless you thought "The pirates of Silicon valley" was a documentary.    http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/conway.html   http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/Retrospective5.html  

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

39 minutes ago, Uttamattamakin said:

Take it up with the computer museum.  

The Computer History Museum runs Them.us? And they have a twitter account called RebelScum?

 

39 minutes ago, Uttamattamakin said:

I still don't see any reference to any movies on those websites. I already gave you a link to a real documentary where Adele Goldberg is the real life woman who gave the demo to Steve Jobs and she specifically used the phrase "kitchen sink" which you attribute to Conway. This is well known Silicon Valley lore. If Lynn is claiming to be this woman then she is a total fraud.

 

In fact when googling Lynn Conway with "kitchen sink" or "war games" or "Pirates of Silicon Valley" the only result is this thread. So I think you are very confused.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice to see a trans person who got to live a long productive life - someone who made an impact on the world.
Makes me happy.
 

"The wheel?" "No thanks, I'll walk, its more natural" - thus was the beginning of the doom of the Human race.
Cheese monger.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, dilpickle said:

In fact when googling Lynn Conway with "kitchen sink" or "war games" or "Pirates of Silicon Valley" the only result is this thread. So I think you are very confused.

She has a very extensive old university website and that is where she made the claim.  I read it there years ago.  Contrary to popular belief Google does not index everything.   You seem to be expecting to find that she was an actor in the movie VS that she was one of the people who worked for DARPA and also worked for PARC who did the kinds of work depicted in those movies. 

Oncce again those movies are dramatizations, not documentaries. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

On 6/13/2024 at 2:26 AM, Uttamattamakin said:

I mean someone would've invented it right?

Well... who's to say? Even if something similar would have been invented it may have been different enough to shape computing history in a different way; these problems often have multiple possible solutions and the one you choose has consequences well beyond that one instance. A lot of things today are the way they are because they evolved from predecessors that did things the same way, and the specific design philosophy of these early pioneers still influences modern systems.

Don't ask to ask, just ask... please 🤨

sudo chmod -R 000 /*

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Sauron said:

Well... who's to say? Even if something similar would have been invented it may have been different enough to shape computing history in a different way; these problems often have multiple possible solutions and the one you choose has consequences well beyond that one instance. A lot of things today are the way they are because they evolved from predecessors that did things the same way, and the specific design philosophy of these early pioneers still influences modern systems.

Exactly.  I mean one can say this when considering the contributions of any of the old computer scientists.  Say Allan Turing or go way back to Charles Babage or Ada of Lovelace or any of those who worked on Eniac or Univac.   There are concepts, ideas, and solutions that are in the DNA of the computers we use now.  

 

In Connway's specific case, we might not have portable computers quite as compact as we do now.   Maybe they'd be better, maybe they'd be worse.

Zooming back out.... There are concepts or solutions that could've been, that either came later or didn't do as well in the market for various reasons.  Desktop computing as we know it was almost that.  Imagine a world were Apple never visited PARC.  Then we have a 1980's where mouse and keyboard interaction remained the province of high cost desktop publishing computers that have a portrait screen instead of landscape.  

But them I am strange by being in the set of LTT viewers who also watch LGR and think cool old computers that were WAY too powerful for me. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, Uttamattamakin said:

She has a very extensive old university website and that is where she made the claim.  I read it there years ago.  Contrary to popular belief Google does not index everything.  

And yet you haven't provided a single link. Pirates of Silicon Valley depicts an unnamed female PARC employee who reluctantly gives a demo to Apple employees. This woman is well known to be Adele Goldberg in real life. There is no documentation anywhere to show that Lynn Conway had anything to do with this demo nor did she have a major role in developing any of the technology that was shown. There is absolutely no reason to think that any part of this small character would be based on Lynn Conway who had nothing to do with this event. If she is claiming so then she is a complete bald faced liar.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, dilpickle said:

There is absolutely no reason to think that any part of this small character would be based on Lynn Conway who had nothing to do with this event. If she is claiming so then she is a complete bald faced liar.

 

You know Xerox PARC had multiple female employees.

Movies often base characters off more than one person OR sometimes based more than one character off one person for narrative purposes. 

According to the links provided she was working at XEROX PARC at the time.  This is a well documented fact.  Things you see in a fictionalized movie about a thing are not the same as someone having a video tape of the thing. 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, Uttamattamakin said:

You know Xerox PARC had multiple female employees.

Movies often base characters off more than one person OR sometimes based more than one character off one person for narrative purposes. 

According to the links provided she was working at XEROX PARC at the time.  This is a well documented fact.  Things you see in a fictionalized movie about a thing are not the same as someone having a video tape of the thing. 

 

 

The character is on screen for less than a minute and has a single line of dialogue. It makes no sense at all that this would be a composite especially when we already know exactly who its based on. Just give it up dude. I'm more inclined to believe you are misremembering whatever you think you read.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, dilpickle said:

The character is on screen for less than a minute and has a single line of dialogue. It makes no sense at all that this would be a composite especially when we already know exactly who its based on. Just give it up dude. I'm more inclined to believe you are misremembering whatever you think you read.

Dude it's a movie.  A great computer nerd movie but just a movie.  I mean do you think this really happened.   Precisely this?  Really? 
 

You know this is highly fictionalized right.  Even Steve Jobs whom a character is clearly 100% based on is not really represented truthfully.   Everyone in that movie seems to be on drugs. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think she would prefer to be remembered as a woman who has done great things, and not have people attribute her deeds to being a trans...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

10 hours ago, Salted Spinach said:

I think she would prefer to be remembered as a woman who has done great things, and not have people attribute her deeds to being a trans...

Except that's the most notable thing about her. All this hype makes it sound like she single handedly invented the modern world. But when you actually look at what she did there is really nothing there to distinguish her above the thousands of other computer scientists from the same era.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, dilpickle said:

Except that's the most notable thing about her. All this hype makes it sound like she single handedly invented the modern world. But when you actually look at what she did there is really nothing there to distinguish her above the thousands of other computer scientists from the same era.

Well to her credit, I think people who have done something for the betterment of the world deserve some praise, even if they may not be famous

 

And to your credit, I agree that people should not be praised for the wrong reasons.

 

Deciding to surgically change one's gender is about personal preference and there is no right or wrong. It has nothing to do with making the world a better or worse place, and should neither be praised nor condemned.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

21 hours ago, Salted Spinach said:

I think she would prefer to be remembered as a woman who has done great things, and not have people attribute her deeds to being a trans...

History is rife with strange and odd people in this world; many whom have brilliant minds. Albert Einstein for example was a known womanizer and looked down on monogamy.

We all have personal opinions of the choices others make. But we should also be careful to not let said opinions overshadow the accomplishments those individuals that have contributed to the benefit of all of humanity.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, dilpickle said:

Except that's the most notable thing about her. All this hype makes it sound like she single handedly invented the modern world. But when you actually look at what she did there is really nothing there to distinguish her above the thousands of other computer scientists from the same era.

bro the fuck is with you this entire thread?

"I dont know about her or about how to research about a person so it must be false" is a crazy take. Ill give you a shocking bit of knowledge drop, much of the history is of computing isnt online, its in books. 

its also like you cant... look through IEEE for her
https://web.archive.org/web/20150103172210/http://www.computer.org/portal/web/awards/conway

https://corporate-awards.ieee.org/wp-content/uploads/maxwell-rl.pdf
 

Quote

“For contributions to and leadership in design methodology and pedagogy enabling rapid advances and dissemination of VLSI design tools and systems.”

Nothing to distinguish her my ass.  She is literally one of the best of the best of the best in her field. 

She did work on the first super scaler processors as well with her work at IBM. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

10 hours ago, starsmine said:

bro the fuck is with you this entire thread?

"I dont know about her or about how to research about a person so it must be false" is a crazy take. Ill give you a shocking bit of knowledge drop, much of the history is of computing isnt online, its in books. 

its also like you cant... look through IEEE for her
https://web.archive.org/web/20150103172210/http://www.computer.org/portal/web/awards/conway

https://corporate-awards.ieee.org/wp-content/uploads/maxwell-rl.pdf
 

Nothing to distinguish her my ass.  She is literally one of the best of the best of the best in her field. 

She did work on the first super scaler processors as well with her work at IBM. 

Why are you diminishing her achievements? Because she also invented desktop computing, mobile processors, e-commerce, the Pentium chip, the very device you are using right now, and is “responsible for how we communicate today”. And don't forget the multiple movie roles based on her.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×