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Transgender Awareness Week: spreading gender awareness in the Arduino community

Arduino TeamNovember 20th, 2020

Transgender Awareness Week, which culminates today with the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), aims at raising the visibility of the transgender and gender non-conforming people, and address the issues their community faces.

At Arduino, we believe that technology should improve the lives of everyone, regardless of their gender, sexuality, race, age, ability, nationality, and body. Being inclusive is at the core of our mission: making technology easy to use, we want to empower everybody to be free to innovate. 

We have decided to join the Transgender Awareness Week and the TDOR because we feel a duty to our community, and to all its members, including the GNC and trans community. Our goal today is not only to celebrate all the diversities of our community — in particular the trans and GCN community — but also to start a conversation with our users about inclusivity in general. Finally, our celebration wants to empower our community members to spread awareness by being everyday their authentic self. 

At Arduino, we believe role models are important to inspire people, to show the way, to reveal what’s possible so we’re going to talk more and more about the people who helped build the technologies who make what we do possible. 

Today, we celebrate two trans women that, even indirectly, have contributed to the Arduino Project. Sophie Wilson and Lynn Conway not only represent a fundamental inspiration for us, but are also a beacon of hope for the next generation of trans and GNC scientists in our community. 

Sophie Wilson studied computer science at the University of Cambridge; in 1978, she designed the Acorn Micro-Computer, System 1, an early 8-bit microcomputer for hobbyists and, later, co-designed with Steve Furber  the prototype of what became the BBC Microcomputer. In 1983, Wilson started to design the instructions set for the “Acorn RISC Machine” processor that became popular as Arm. The Arm became one of the most successful microprocessor architecture  in history and is now used in billions  of different products, from mobile phones to laptops, from digital TV to video games and our beloved Arduino boards. (All of our latest boards are based on Arm.) Wilson was listed in 2011 in Maximum PC as number 8 in an article titled “The 15 Most Important Women in Tech History.”

Lynn Conway studied at the M.I.T. and Columbia University and was then recruited by IBM Research to co-design the architecture of the Advanced Computing Systems (ACS) project. With the invention of the multiple out-of-order dynamic instruction scheduling, used by most computers to improve their performance, she made foundational contributions to computer architecture. In 1969 she underwent gender transition and was fired. This didn’t stop here and the work she did with Carver Mead led to the so-called  “Mead & Conway revolution.” Their book “Introduction to VLSI Systems” was the first VLSI chip design textbook usable by non-physicists and resulted in a worldwide restructuring of academic materials in computer science and electrical engineering education, and was paramount for the development of industries based on the application of microelectronics. She was also recognized by Time Magazine in 2014 as one of the most influential LGBTQ figures in American Culture. Lynn is a gender activist and has always worked to protect and expand the rights of transgender people.

As Arduino users, we have to thank Lynn for “democratizing” the design of complex silicon chips, which paved the way for people like Sophie who we must thank for designing the Arm processor architecture that is central to all of the work we do now. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today in technology!

So, Lynn and Sophie, thank you from the bottom of our open source hearts here at Arduino. :-)

The celebration of the Transgender Awareness Week and the TDOR is only the beginning of an important journey that will mark Arduino’s commitment to inclusivity. Stay tuned for more! 

(NOTE: The biographies are edited from Wikipedia articles used under the  Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)