There are countless women whose work has changed the world in positive ways. We want to celebrate International Women’s Day by showing appreciation for a woman whose work paved the way for how the internet works which ultimately led to the largest economic boom in history.
Pamela Hardt-English is the strong and determined, yet incredibly humble woman who led the way in the creation of Resource One, which was known as the “people’s computer center”. The work she and the group at Resource One did was performed in an unprecedented way, opening the door for the creation of the internet and everything that comes along with it.
Who is Pamela Hardt-English?
Pamela Hardt-English grew up in the midst of the women’s rights movements. It was still very common at that time for women to go from high school to becoming housewives but Pamela wanted more. She wanted to be able to take care of herself instead of having to rely on someone else.
She started her journey studying math but soon transferred to computer science in college. The industry was new at that time. They needed people and were open and accepting of women in the field.
Project One and the Creation of Resource One
During this time period, Pamela learned about Project One located in San Francisco. This was a warehouse community (aka a live-work community) that supported the counterculture movement. It was a compound that housed things like technology organizations and artists. There was even a high school and daycare in the compound where children were taught in a free way of thinking.
There was no real organizational structure in place at Project One. It was a place that was run by the people that were part of the community, like Open Source is today. They all pitched in together to do what needed to be done. Ideas flowed and intelligent and creative minds connected together.
Pamela found a home here along with a friend and fellow computer science student and this was where the idea of Resource One started.
Establishing Resource One
While Resource One ended up becoming one of the core parts of Project One, it began as the simple, yet complex, idea of creating a computer system that would allow the everyday person access to shared resources.
During this time period, if a person wanted to get information on a certain topic, they would need to go directly to the source or organization in order to obtain it. This meant that a lot of knowledge and resources that were available weren’t really accessible to a large number of people.
Pamela wanted to change that.
She and a few friends had the idea to create a computing center that was able to share resources. They wanted to help connect the city by putting the information in the hands of the people so they could begin to make decisions for themselves instead of having others control decisions for them. They believed by creating this shared computing resource to provide access to information, they could help create more of a diffused leadership instead of people being so controlled by just a few individuals or organizations.
Pamela was able to connect with the president of the Bank of America along with a network of local business leaders she had connected together and was able to source a decommissioned SDS 940. She also learned how to fundraise and talked to people and organization boards across the city working to raise the $100,000 they needed to fund the project.
The role of women in Resource One
Within the walls of Project One and in the project of Resource One, women weren’t limited to what they could do by traditional gender roles at the time. Everyone pitched in to accomplish what needed to be done whether it was building a wall or raising necessary funds.
Women, and men alike, were empowered to take action to make things happen.
The Impact that Pamela’s Work Had on the Future
Pamela eventually grew frustrated with the limitations of the technology. They were not able to completely create what she had envisioned due to the state of technology during that time. She eventually went on to pursue other interests, but the foundation that she had begun remained.
Another group continued to build upon what Pamela had started. Three women, Sherry Reson, Mary Janowitz, and Joan Lefkowitz, stepped in and used the Resource One foundation to build a shared directory that individuals could subscribe to in order to access information at stations across the city. And, on top of that, Lee Felsenstein transformed Resource One into Community Memory to continue building the technology needed to move the original idea forward.
None of this would have been possible at that time without the original work put in place by Pamela Hardt-English.
We couldn’t let this opportunity pass to highlight a woman that helped change the world in such an impactful way and yet so few people know her name. The work that we do today was made possible by the work of Pamela Hardt-English and many other women like her. They were willing to step out of the traditional gender roles of the times they were in and pushed forward to achieve big things. Not only did she help pave the way for the internet, but she helped pave the way for women in the tech world.