"My mother was a big influence on me..."

Tammy Pirmann sits at her desk smiling and working on her computer.

"My mother was a big influence on me. She was actually one of the pioneers of semiconductor miniaturization. She did not have an engineering degree. She hadn't gone to college, but she had a lot of work experience. And she was doing the job of an engineer. She was very intelligent, but not formally educated. She had been at Corning Glass doing a whole bunch of really interesting technology applications of glass. They didn't really call it R&D then, but it was sort of like, 'we're going to try some things out and see if they work' kind of department. So it was it was not a production department, it was more like a prototypes department. She was one of the first people when the company started, and she continued for 20 years pioneering ways to etch circuits onto silicon. 

"She gave me my first computer when I was thirteen. It was a Commodore 32 that Commodore had sent to the office; they’d had a stack of them. And so I learned how to program from the Commodore 32. You couldn't really... there were no stored programs. So if you wanted a program, you had to type it in. You would subscribe to these magazines, and look at the index and it would tell you what the program titles were and a little blurb about them. And then you would go to that page. It was centerfold style, you would turn it sideways, and it would just be all the code they do. And then you would just type it in, following along. 

"After typing in God knows how many programs, I got it. I just got it. I was like, 'Okay, I know what this thing does.' I was fourteen years old when I submitted to the magazine: it wasn't a code correction, it was an efficiency. So I submitted a change to previously published code. I said, 'Look at lines 80 to 120. I've gotten that down to these eight lines.' And at that point, efficiency was king. The fewer the number of lines, the lesser the memory occupied. And they published it with my name! My mom was the proudest thing ever and she took an issue around her office and would say to people, 'and nowhere does it say she's fourteen. She's fourteen! She's had the computer for one year.' I loved programming. It was the coolest thing. But it was... I literally couldn't see how anyone could have a career at it. I just saw it as a hobby. It was fun but can you imagine having a career as a quilter? Or you know, scrapbooking? That's the thing you do for fun. And that's exactly how I saw programming. It was the thing you do for fun."

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