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Unsung Heroes of IT | Remembering Evelyn Berezin

Television is like the invention of indoor plumbing. It didn’t change people’s habits. It just kept them inside the house.

– Alfred Hitchcock

Many people believe Steve Jobs invented the computer, but he didn’t (neither did Steve Wozniak). Still more believe Bill Gates invented computer programming, he didn’t do that either. While these great men of technology did many things to get us where we are today, as the saying goes, they stood on the shoulders of giants. Though many attribute Charles Baggage as the inventor of the first mechanical computer, many people added to the technology along the way. And by the way, John Vincent Atanasoff is generally considered the inventor of the first digital computer in the 1930s.


Last week, another of the great figures in the history of computers passed away: Evelyn Berezin. Don’t know her name… I am not surprised. In an industry that is dominated by men, Evelyn Berezin was a pioneer. Born in 1925, she graduated from high school when she was 15 and went on to get a degree in physics. In 1951 she went to work for the Electronic Computer Corporation (ECC) and was the head of the Logic Design Department (and only member of the department for some time.) In 1957 ECC was purchased by Underwood Corporation. For those of us old enough to remember, Underwood was THE name in typewriters.


In 1968, she had an idea that could truly be the impetus of the personal computing revolution. She envisioned the word processor. She started a company known as the Redactron Corporation in 1969 and purchased the “Data Secretary”… the world’s first processor. Of course, it didn’t have a screen and was the size of a small refrigerator but there it was, the revolution had begun. At the time, the secretarial workforce made up about 6% of the American workforce. What she delivered to them was a device that could correct typos, make edits, and delete errors as well as produce multiple copies of the documents. Before that if an error was made, they had to re-type the entire page or try to erase or hide them which generally looked worse than the original error!


It is also important to note that in 1969 tech start-ups were pretty rare and a woman starting a tech company was pretty much unheard of.


While there are many well-known inventors and developers, there are just as many who are not well-known, that contributed so much to this industry. The tech world may not celebrate her career and invention, but Evelyn Berezin contributed greatly to the business world.

curtis-thompsonThroughout his time at YHB Curtis has provided IT audit and consulting to clients, even while holding the position of the firm’s IT director for several years. Now, as head of the YHB Risk Advisory Services Team, Curtis focuses on assisting organizations in a variety of industries with internal audits and IT-related audit and consulting services. Also, he frequently speaks and gives presentations on SOX compliance, internal controls, and data security.