The story of one of the most inspiring icons in the video game developing history.
A long time ago (not so long actually, in the 50's) when computers were big as buildings and cost millions, the "newborn" computer science industry required discipline, and it wasn't intuitive at all. The field was filled with electrical engineers because there weren't other ways to communicate with computers other than flipping switches.
Most of these engineers were women, such as Grace Hopper, who invented COBOL, one of the first programming language, which is still used nowadays.
At that time, applications for those machines were limited to military and finance, but in the late 60's, they started to become cheaper, faster, and smaller. Companies began buying them to do accounting, and they were hiring anyone who could work on them, even people without a formal degree, shifting rapidly the industry into a "male-dominated" field.
Let us introduce you to the protagonist of our story, Carol Shaw.
Since childhood, she developed a great interest in computer science following the steps of her father, a graduated mechanical engineer. She then decided to pursue a career in engineering, and when she graduated in the late 70's, the video game industry was blossoming.
Carol joined Atari in 1978 and was the first female programmer in the company. On the Atari 2600 console, she made four original games such as "3D Tic-Tac-Toe" and the console version of "Super Breakout", one of the most famous arcade games ever.
Defined by many of her peers as the "best programmer" in the company, she also helped to port the BASIC language to the Atari 2600. At that time, Atari had a bad reputation as they didn't feature any game developers in their games. Carol didn't agree with the lack of acknowledgement, and in 1982 she decided to join Activision, where she created the famous "River Raid" which sold over a million cartridges and became a hit. "The first woman to get her name on a games box” and one of the very few women in the gaming industry, Carol's example was soon followed by other women, such as Dona Bailey and Carla Meninsky, who also worked at Atari in the late '70s.
"River Raid" was also ported to other consoles and home computers and was so successful that allow her to retire at just 35, in 1990.
Today she's an inspirational icon for all female video game developers because of her incredible success.
In an interesting interview with "Vintage Computing and Gaming", she says:
"What advice would you give to women, to encourage them to consider a career in gaming development and IT?
CS: If that’s something they like doing, they should go ahead and do it. And not let people tell them that they can’t do it. The main thing is find something that you like doing and are interested in.
Did you keep up with the video game industry through the years after you left Activision? Have you played any video games since then?
CS: I really got into SimCity. That was a while ago."
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