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Instructions Not Included: How a Team of Women Coded the Future

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Click. Whir. Buzz. Not so long ago, math problems had to be solved with pencil and paper, mail delivered by postman, and files were stored in paper folders and metal cabinets. But three women, Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty knew there could be a better way. During World War II, people hoped ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), one of the earli Click. Whir. Buzz. Not so long ago, math problems had to be solved with pencil and paper, mail delivered by postman, and files were stored in paper folders and metal cabinets. But three women, Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty knew there could be a better way. During World War II, people hoped ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), one of the earliest computers, could help with the war effort. With little guidance, no instructions, and barely any access to the machine itself, Betty, Jean, and Kay used mathematics, electrical engineering, logic, and common sense to command a computer as large as a room and create the modern world. The machine was like Betty, requiring outside-the-box thinking, like Jean, persistent and consistent, and like Kay, no mistakes, every answer perfect. Today computers are all around us, performing every conceivable task, thanks, in large part, to Betty, Jean, and Kay's pioneering work. Instructions Not Included is their story. This fascinating chapter in history is brought to life with vivid prose by Tami Lewis Brown and Debbie Loren Dunn and with striking illustrations by Chelsea Beck. Detailed back matter including historical photos provides a closer look.


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Click. Whir. Buzz. Not so long ago, math problems had to be solved with pencil and paper, mail delivered by postman, and files were stored in paper folders and metal cabinets. But three women, Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty knew there could be a better way. During World War II, people hoped ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), one of the earli Click. Whir. Buzz. Not so long ago, math problems had to be solved with pencil and paper, mail delivered by postman, and files were stored in paper folders and metal cabinets. But three women, Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty knew there could be a better way. During World War II, people hoped ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), one of the earliest computers, could help with the war effort. With little guidance, no instructions, and barely any access to the machine itself, Betty, Jean, and Kay used mathematics, electrical engineering, logic, and common sense to command a computer as large as a room and create the modern world. The machine was like Betty, requiring outside-the-box thinking, like Jean, persistent and consistent, and like Kay, no mistakes, every answer perfect. Today computers are all around us, performing every conceivable task, thanks, in large part, to Betty, Jean, and Kay's pioneering work. Instructions Not Included is their story. This fascinating chapter in history is brought to life with vivid prose by Tami Lewis Brown and Debbie Loren Dunn and with striking illustrations by Chelsea Beck. Detailed back matter including historical photos provides a closer look.

30 review for Instructions Not Included: How a Team of Women Coded the Future

  1. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    Add this to the growing list of excellent picture books on the origins of computer programs. I particularly liked the opening pages describing how "Not long ago, there were no computers." This alone, is fascinating to children. Add this to the growing list of excellent picture books on the origins of computer programs. I particularly liked the opening pages describing how "Not long ago, there were no computers." This alone, is fascinating to children.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alex Baugh

    Back in August, I reviewed a fun book called Cape (The Secret League of Heroes), in which three new friends discover they have superpowers and come to the rescue of the women who were working on a top-secret programmable computer called ENIAC in Philadelphia, in the hope that it could help win the war. Now, in Instructions Not Included, meet three of the real women behind the computers that are so much a part of our daily lives. They are Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty - three very d Back in August, I reviewed a fun book called Cape (The Secret League of Heroes), in which three new friends discover they have superpowers and come to the rescue of the women who were working on a top-secret programmable computer called ENIAC in Philadelphia, in the hope that it could help win the war. Now, in Instructions Not Included, meet three of the real women behind the computers that are so much a part of our daily lives. They are Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty - three very different women from very different backgrounds with one thing in common - they loved math. Which is how they found themselves in a secret lab at the University of Pennsylvania, where a hundred women called "computers" worked 24/7 solving math problems, after answering a January 20, 1942 ad in the newspaper. They were trying to figure out such things as which was the most effective angle to aim a gun and when was the best time to launch a bomb using pencils, paper and adding machines. Their goal - to win the war. At the same time, upstairs even more top secret work was happening. A machine called the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC for short, had just been built, and now it needed to make it work. Six women, including Betty, Jean, and Kay, found themselves in the upstairs computer room. Their job now was to create a code that could be understood by ENIAC using mathematics so it could do the calculations that the women downstairs were working on but more quickly and correctly. Did they succeed? Yes, they did and in fact, if you read the Author's Note in the back matter, you will discover all the innovations that they went on to make in the burgeoning world of computers. Instructions Not Included is the kind of picture book I wish I had had when I was teaching IT to young kids. What a difference it might have made in my classroom. I know it is a simplistic look at the contributions of the women who worked on ENIAC and paved the way for today's computers, but it is also a book that could be used to inspire young kids, especially girls, to think about mathematics in a different way. What counts is that all the important points about the work of Betty, Jean, Kay, and all the women who worked on this secret project are covered. And they are shown as having more interests than math - Betty played the double bass, Jean loved baseball and Kay just was good at everything she did. The colorful, stylized illustrations have a very 1940s feel to them, and each of the women is seen dressed in the same color in each illustration, and where they are seen working on ENIAC - Betty is red, Kay is green, Jean is yellow. This not only individualizes the women, but it also helps the reader tell they apart, and, interestingly, works to show each women's movements, giving the illustrations a sense of motion. As a picture book for older readers, Instructions Not Included is an important addition to the ever growing STEM/STEAM body of literature and is an inspiring book that should be used liberally by parents, teachers, and librarians. This book is recommended for readers age 6+ This book was borrowed from the NYPL

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*

    Instructions Not Included: How a Team of Women Coded the Future by Tami Lewis Brown and Debbie Loren Duncan, illustrated by Chelsea Beck. PICTURE BOOK. Disney, 2019. $18. 9781368011051 BUYING ADVISORY: EL(K-3), EL - ADVISABLE AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE The computer life that we live now is due in large part to the women who programmed ENIAC – the first electric general-purpose computer. Even after their success with programming the machine, their continued efforts to streamline and improve computers Instructions Not Included: How a Team of Women Coded the Future by Tami Lewis Brown and Debbie Loren Duncan, illustrated by Chelsea Beck. PICTURE BOOK. Disney, 2019. $18. 9781368011051 BUYING ADVISORY: EL(K-3), EL - ADVISABLE AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE The computer life that we live now is due in large part to the women who programmed ENIAC – the first electric general-purpose computer. Even after their success with programming the machine, their continued efforts to streamline and improve computers set the stage for all the wonders that followed. Another solid addition to the picture books that finally show the contributions to the woman who made computers possible and did incredible things with them. Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS https://kissthebookjr.blogspot.com/20...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tempe Public Library

    This story is about three very different women with very different talents and one common one; all three are brilliant mathematicians. These women, Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty lived in a time when math problems had to be solved with pencil and paper, mail delivered by the postman, and then stored in paper folders and metal cabinets. Betty was inventive, Jean was consistent, and Kay was the perfectionist who didn’t make mistakes, and they come together in 1944 to program a compute This story is about three very different women with very different talents and one common one; all three are brilliant mathematicians. These women, Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty lived in a time when math problems had to be solved with pencil and paper, mail delivered by the postman, and then stored in paper folders and metal cabinets. Betty was inventive, Jean was consistent, and Kay was the perfectionist who didn’t make mistakes, and they come together in 1944 to program a computer to help the war effort. This computer was called ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer). Not only did these three women write ENIAC’s code, they did it with pencils and paper. With little guidance, no instructions, and barely any access to the machine itself, Betty, Jean, and Kay used mathematics, electrical engineering, logic, and common sense to command a computer as large as a room. The machine needed to be like Betty, requiring thinking outside the box, like Jean, persistent and consistent, and like Kay, no mistakes, and every answer perfect. The three women work long, hard hours adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying, translating math into a code the computer could understand. All the while engineers were putting together the computer’s large frame and soldering its circuit boards. Betty, Jean and Kay only have a few short weeks to make their calculations work…will ENIAC be ready, or will they have to scrap the whole thing? Readers will enjoy the bright visuals, in graphic book style, as they discover some history behind the handy devices used to enjoy screen time on today. They will come to understand that once, computers were large and clunky and took up an entire room. They will read about some of the very first pioneering attempts at creating a language for computers and the steps needed to teach computers to read that language. A fascinating, true story about three women and the revolutionary contributions they made, which laid the groundwork for the very programs used today in modern computing.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty all came from different backgrounds but had one thing in common: their understanding of math. Brought together during World War II, these three women were tasked to use their math skills to program ENIAC, one of the world’s earliest computers. With no instructions, the women set out to create a code for ENIAC that would prove a computer’s worth in both war and peace. But, programming a 13-ton machine with no prior knowledge, except math, was not easy. Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty all came from different backgrounds but had one thing in common: their understanding of math. Brought together during World War II, these three women were tasked to use their math skills to program ENIAC, one of the world’s earliest computers. With no instructions, the women set out to create a code for ENIAC that would prove a computer’s worth in both war and peace. But, programming a 13-ton machine with no prior knowledge, except math, was not easy. The women worked to first calculate all of the aspects needed to program ENIAC, and then they had to test it. They were on a deadline and ENIAC did not compute properly. What was wrong? How would they figure out their problem before it was too late? Instructions Not Included is the story of three women who were computer science pioneers. Using only their knowledge of math, they were able to program one of the earliest computers to use for war. Both Jean Jennings and Betty Snyder remained in the computer science field after the ENIAC project. Betty went on to help write both COBOL and FORTRAN computer languages with Grace Hopper and others. Jean helped develop stored-programming. The “Author’s Note” at the end of the book provides additional details about each woman. Resources for further reading are also provided. This is an informative picture book to help students recognize the importance of math and the development of computer science.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    “Betty, Jean and Kay unleash their talents, share their secrets, pair their smarts with the computer’s speed. Exploring. Creating. Inventing.” In 1944, three women called “computers” work at a secret lab at the University of Pennsylvania solving math problems with paper, pencil and adding machines. But upstairs, a machine (ENIAC) is being built that can calculate faster than humanly possible. But it is going to require mathematicians to “invent a way to tell a machine to perform complex calculati “Betty, Jean and Kay unleash their talents, share their secrets, pair their smarts with the computer’s speed. Exploring. Creating. Inventing.” In 1944, three women called “computers” work at a secret lab at the University of Pennsylvania solving math problems with paper, pencil and adding machines. But upstairs, a machine (ENIAC) is being built that can calculate faster than humanly possible. But it is going to require mathematicians to “invent a way to tell a machine to perform complex calculations at record speeds, and to make sure its answers are always correct.” These women were all very different, but they all had one thing in common: they love math. “The girls are brilliant, brave, and bold.” Meet those three ladies: In school, Betty Snyder was bullied but she “plays her own way.” She dreams music and equations. Her innovation: sort-merge Jean Jennings was a farm girl and an athlete. She learned three grade of math in a single year (5th, 6th and 7th grades). Jean “aims to win.” Her innovation: stored program Kay McNulty, A+ student, perfectionist, she even tutored her older brothers in English, poetry and arithmetic. Her innovation: Reducing and Reusing Memory Includes a small bibliography and an author’s note that goes in to more detail about ENIAC and the ladies who worked on it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Brehl

    This portrayal of the original female programmers of room-sized ENIAC computer is an important example of ways in which gender barriers were broken during World War Ii. This belongs in any exploration of Rosie the Riveter, the early WAC (Women's Air Corps) and countless other lesser-told stories. In this case the STEM links are enormous and important, not only because it confirms women as the ORIGINAL computer programmers, but also that they were superb mathematicians (human computers) whose rel This portrayal of the original female programmers of room-sized ENIAC computer is an important example of ways in which gender barriers were broken during World War Ii. This belongs in any exploration of Rosie the Riveter, the early WAC (Women's Air Corps) and countless other lesser-told stories. In this case the STEM links are enormous and important, not only because it confirms women as the ORIGINAL computer programmers, but also that they were superb mathematicians (human computers) whose reliability/accuracy was the ultimate test of early programming systems. Lots of value in sharing/comparing this with other recent releases, some of which are suggested in back matter. I'd add to those Heddie Lamar's Double Life (Wallmark), Reaching for the Moon (Johnson), Doll-E 1.0 (McCloskey), Girls Think of Everything (Thimmesh/Sweet) and so man more!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Erin Buhr

    I must admit, I was nervous when I picked this up. It is lengthy. Thick. That rarely bodes well for a picture book. Two pages in however I knew this was different. Impeccably paced and well written, this book is one you could easily read aloud despite the length and seemingly bland subject matter. These women were incredible and their work in coding reads as a vivid, exciting adventure on these pages. It is amazing how far we have come with computers in such a relatively short period and the rol I must admit, I was nervous when I picked this up. It is lengthy. Thick. That rarely bodes well for a picture book. Two pages in however I knew this was different. Impeccably paced and well written, this book is one you could easily read aloud despite the length and seemingly bland subject matter. These women were incredible and their work in coding reads as a vivid, exciting adventure on these pages. It is amazing how far we have come with computers in such a relatively short period and the role these women played was impressive. Don't miss the information in the back, especially the photos. For children used to cell phones and tablets, the beginning of computers is almost unfathomable. A nonfiction and STEM must read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    When I was in school, I learned about the men who put computers in every home, but I didn't learn about the invaluable contributions of the women who made the machines work in the first place. I hope that's changing in schools today. Instructions Not Included is a wonderful story of three of those women. In addition to telling about the lives of the individual women and how they came together, it also excellently portrays the important role of collaboration, failure, and problem-solving in innov When I was in school, I learned about the men who put computers in every home, but I didn't learn about the invaluable contributions of the women who made the machines work in the first place. I hope that's changing in schools today. Instructions Not Included is a wonderful story of three of those women. In addition to telling about the lives of the individual women and how they came together, it also excellently portrays the important role of collaboration, failure, and problem-solving in innovation. The amazing individual contributions each woman made to modern-day computing are clearly explained, and I love that the illustrator didn't shy away from including mathematical calculations in her art.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Vicki Reilly

    Instructions Not Included follows 3 brilliant and innovator women mathematicians. They work together with other women in mathematics during World War II to help the military. The most important contribution is what they do, without instructions and recognition, to get the ENAIC computer up and running. They use their unique skill sets to help create the modern world. These books I on the 2020 Outstanding Science Trade Books list on the Children's Book Council. I listen to this read aloud on Yout Instructions Not Included follows 3 brilliant and innovator women mathematicians. They work together with other women in mathematics during World War II to help the military. The most important contribution is what they do, without instructions and recognition, to get the ENAIC computer up and running. They use their unique skill sets to help create the modern world. These books I on the 2020 Outstanding Science Trade Books list on the Children's Book Council. I listen to this read aloud on Youtube. This text would be a great addition to a STEAM unit, Women's History Month, or leading up to National Day of Code. I believe it would surprise students to learn about such large and complex computer setups. The text is aimed towards upper elementary as it has technical jargon.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Johanna

    - This fascinating biography illustrates how together, Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty were able to create and command a computer, which ultimately created the modern world. These three ladies had little guidance, little access to the ENIAC, and no instructions. Still, they managed to work collaboratively to code a computer and open doors for the modern world. While this book had some fun illustrations, the author also included historical photographs, which made the book more intere - This fascinating biography illustrates how together, Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty were able to create and command a computer, which ultimately created the modern world. These three ladies had little guidance, little access to the ENIAC, and no instructions. Still, they managed to work collaboratively to code a computer and open doors for the modern world. While this book had some fun illustrations, the author also included historical photographs, which made the book more interesting. - This book was definitely inspiring. It makes me think about women in STEM. I admire them, I know it must be difficult, but I do think that more women, especially in today’s world, should be a part of STEM.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Abby Johnson

    When computers were first being developed, of course they didn't have instructions. And it fell to a team of women to figure out how to program the first computers. This book introduces three women - Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty - whose work went on largely behind the scenes but without whose work, our lives would be incredibly different today. I still think it's completely fascinating to think about the women who first figured out how to program computers, since they are such a When computers were first being developed, of course they didn't have instructions. And it fell to a team of women to figure out how to program the first computers. This book introduces three women - Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty - whose work went on largely behind the scenes but without whose work, our lives would be incredibly different today. I still think it's completely fascinating to think about the women who first figured out how to program computers, since they are such a ubiquitous element of life today. Hand this to young coders!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kris Dersch

    This was quite good. It's long for a picture book and I thought it would overwhelm my kid but is an interesting story about the often forgotten women who did a lot of the work in early computer science, generally to have men take credit for what they did. The first couple of pages, where the authors are trying to take the reader back into the past, are a little bit clunky, they have this odd folksy voice that doesn't work so well for me, but it passes quickly and you are left to enjoy a really i This was quite good. It's long for a picture book and I thought it would overwhelm my kid but is an interesting story about the often forgotten women who did a lot of the work in early computer science, generally to have men take credit for what they did. The first couple of pages, where the authors are trying to take the reader back into the past, are a little bit clunky, they have this odd folksy voice that doesn't work so well for me, but it passes quickly and you are left to enjoy a really interesting slice of history.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Mcavoy

    4 1/2 stars. A very fine, well designed account of how three of the early NASA, women, computers developed modern programming and how each of the three profiled contributed a specific, ground-breaking element to modern computing. I am a technological imbecile and even I could understand what was so great about these three gals. I especially liked how the author and artist tied their contributions to aspects of their early life experience - i.e. precision and repetition to the pitcher.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lara Samuels

    The stories are overly simplified to capture a young audience but it does refer to their work on computations for bombs and guns. The author’s note with primary source photographs increased the overall value of the book. It does refer to the hidden history of women but it missed the opportunity to include women of color which would have made it a must purchase. It is a nice selection if additional funds are available after purchasing more inclusive texts first.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Erin Darmody

    Jean, Betty and Kay changed the world. But no one knows they’re names. They worked hard and problem solved to make their goals possible. I’m glad the book mentions that their bosses congratulate themselves but not the women. But the book also doesn’t dwell on it and turns back to the women’s inventions and that those innovations are still used in today’s computers.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Smith

    Really enjoyed learning about these amazing women in the field of mathematics and about their roles in the development of computers. Lost a star because the subjects were a little too complex for a typical picture book audience.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Travis Lynn

    5 stars copyright 2019 genre biography theme empowerment. Favorite part of the book was how the book illustrated just how important these women were in creating the first computers. I will use this book to illustrate women in a job that is not typically associated with the female gender.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    Information text about the three women who worked to make sure ENIAC worked. Brown presents their biographies from childhood through several innovations they developed to improve early computer processing.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Viviane Elbee

    Fascinating biographies of 3 women who helped program the ENIAC, one of the first computers. This picture book is aimed towards older elementary students because of its length and subject matter. The kids enjoyed it. Most appealing for fans of non-fiction, computers, math and STEAM subjects.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Doyle

    In an age where computers were just beginning, three women help set the stage for programming language and so much more. I hadn’t heard about them before reading the book and it makes me want to learn more about each one.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    A fabulous story of 3 amazing women who were among the country's first computer coders. I loved learning a little about their individual stories and how they brought their strengths together to accomplish such important work. A fabulous story of 3 amazing women who were among the country's first computer coders. I loved learning a little about their individual stories and how they brought their strengths together to accomplish such important work.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chris Hays

    This is a great book honoring those left behind by the history text books. I enjoyed the way the art was displayed, yet wish the more detailed text was not saved until the end. These 3 pioneers created steps and processes that led the exploration of machines working for us.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Jahng

    Interesting story of lesser known women in science. The story is a bit similar to Hidden Figures, but the narrative is better suited to the picture book format. Kids will enjoy seeing how computers developed from the early stages.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    The story of the pioneering work in computer programming three women did in working with ENIAC.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kirsti Call

    Engaging and informative story of three brilliant women who were coding innovators.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Tanner

    This is a very interesting biographical story about three women who developed some of the coding procedures we use today.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Walz

    An interesting story of three women who worked on one of the first computers.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jill Lewis Smith

    Great book for young and older readers! Introduction into understanding how a few women brought computers into our lives!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I and my 12yo friend read this and honestly we were both a bit confused. The blend between poetry and prose doesn't make the writing clear and some of the illustrations are off-putting. I and my 12yo friend read this and honestly we were both a bit confused. The blend between poetry and prose doesn't make the writing clear and some of the illustrations are off-putting.

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