The modern office worker pays very little—if any—attention to word processing, but there was a time when writing, editing, and type-setting were a central and extremely tedious reality of the corporate world.
Determined to improve upon that reality, Evelyn Berezin, a female tech entrepreneur at the time, designed and marketed the first computerized word processor in 1969.
While Berezin played a significant role in modernizing the corporate environment, her accomplishments have been mostly overlooked by the public. She passed away last month at the age of 93, and her obituary in the New York Times documents her many industry contributions.
As British writer Gwyn Headley put it, “Without Ms. Berezin there would be no Bill Gates, no Steve Jobs, no internet, no word processors, no spreadsheets; nothing that remotely connects business with the 21st century.”
In his Times piece, Robert D. McFadden describes Berezin’s experiences early in her career, “as the only woman in a shop of engineers in Brooklyn.” Charged with designing a computer with very little prior experience, Berezin had to “figure out how to do it.” And figure it out she did, very successfully. From there she moved to another company and ultimately designed a program for United Airlines that was a predecessor to the modern online reservation system.
The idea for her word processor, which she called Data Secretary, took off in 1969. McFadden writes Data Secretary “was 40 inches high, the size of a small refrigerator, and had no screen for words to trickle across.” It might not have been a sleek machine, but the computers were a game changer for the 10,000+ customers that bought them. They provided the foundation for countless efficiency innovations that led up to and include today’s big data analytics industry.
If you haven’t heard of Berezin, you’re not alone—in fact, Gwyn Headley’s blog post on her is entitled, “Why is this Woman Not Famous?” She may not be well-known but her contributions are great and undeniable.
An industry without Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or the internet is impossible to envision; as such, it follows that a world without Evelyn Berezin can’t be pictured.