Evelyn Berezin, Computer Scientist Who Brought Word Processors To The Office, Dies At 93 Evelyn Berezin, the computer scientist who brought word processors to offices across America in the 1970s, died Saturday in Manhattan. She was 93.
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Evelyn Berezin, Computer Scientist Who Brought Word Processors To The Office, Dies At 93

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Evelyn Berezin, Computer Scientist Who Brought Word Processors To The Office, Dies At 93

Evelyn Berezin, Computer Scientist Who Brought Word Processors To The Office, Dies At 93

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We're going to take a moment now to remember a pioneer of computer engineering. Evelyn Berezin died over the weekend at age 93.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

She was the daughter of a seamstress and furrier, who popularized word processing and defied the gender expectations of her industry. Dag Spicer is senior curator at the Computer History Museum.

DAG SPICER: She designed computers in the 1950s at the very dawn of the computer age. That was a job that, perhaps, 20 people had at the time.

CORNISH: Among her designs - the first computerized airline reservation system, automated banking transactions and a system that computed artillery distances for the Pentagon.

SHAPIRO: A turning point came in 1960. The New York Stock Exchange asked her to design a new stock ticker and then abruptly pulled the offer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EVELYN BEREZIN: And I said, why? I was probably one of the two people in the world who could design a machine for that.

SHAPIRO: That's Berezin in a 2014 oral history recording for the Computer History Museum.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEREZIN: And he said, you'd have to be on the stock market floor from time to time, and the language of the floor was not for a woman's ears. It was devastating.

SHAPIRO: So she founded her own company, Redactron, and developed her word processor.

CORNISH: It was a machine attached to a typewriter that could remember every keystroke, allowing the user to correct mistakes and print clean copy. It was revolutionary for secretaries who spent their days typing. Matt Kirschenbaum wrote a history of word processing and says Berezin saw her work as part of a large social agenda.

MATT KIRSCHENBAUM: It was explicitly framed in terms of the technology's potential to liberate women and allow them to move into other sectors of the workforce.

SHAPIRO: But that liberation was limited. Easier typing didn't mean that male bosses were about to do it for themselves.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEREZIN: It was an ego thing, and one of the hardest things to break was that ego situation between a guy and his secretary.

SHAPIRO: As Berezin found out, office culture would be harder to change than office technology.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES HUNTER SONG, "NO SMOKE WITHOUT FIRE")

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