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First Woman to Win Turing Award

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For the first time in the 40 years history of Turing Awards, a woman (Frances E Allen) has won the prestigious computing award.

Turing Awards are considered the "Nobel Prize of Computing". They carry a $100,000 (Rs 4500,000) prize with financial support provided by Intel Corporation.

Since 1966, when the Turing Awards were first instituted, the winners have always been men. With a woman winning the award, this year marks a new beginning.

Frances E Allen (75) has been given the award for her work at IBM on techniques for optimizing the performance of compilers, the programs that translate one computer language into another. Programming code has to be converted into binary zeros and ones that are actually read by a computer's colossal array of miniscule switches.

Allen joined IBM in 1957, when the company was recruiting women by circulating a brochure on campuses that was titled "My Fair Ladies." She joined the company to teach 'Fortran', a revolutionary high-level programming language, to the scientists there.

According to Ruzena Bajcsy, Chair of ACM's Turing Award Committee,
"Frances Allen's work has led to remarkable advances in compiler design and machine architecture that are at the foundation of modern high-performance computing. Her contributions have spanned most of the history of computer science, and have made possible computing techniques that we rely on today in business and technology."

Bajcsy added,
"It is interesting to note Allen's role in highly secret intelligence work on security codes for the organization now known as the National Security Agency, since it was Alan Turing, the namesake of this prestigious award, who devised techniques to help break the German codes during World War II."

Allen, now retired, still plays an active part in programs to encourage girls/women to study Computer Science.

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