Summary

Hidden Figures is an American biographical drama film, which is based on the events from the eponymous non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly. The film follows the careers of three black women working at NASA in the 1960's. The main character, Katherine Johnson, is a mathematician who worked on analytic algebra for NASA, during the American and Soviet Space Race. The film also features Dorothy Vaughan, an aspiring supervisor, and Mary Jackson, the first African American female engineer at NASA.

Technology

  • Sputnik 1 (4 October 1957 to 4 January 1958) -- Sputnik 1 was launched by Soviet Union on 4 October 1957. It had orbited for three months, until 4 January 1958, completed 1,440 orbits of the Earth[1]. In the movie, launching of Sputnik 1 triggered Space Task Group to speed up on their space race with Russia
  • Redstone Test Stand (old technology) -- Redstone was built in Huntsville, Alabama. It was an important facility in developing the Mercury/Redstone vehicles that launched the first American satellite and the first American manned space flight[2]. It was shown in the movie to test and launch the rockets.
  • IBM 7090 (old technology) -- IBM 7090 is general-purpose data processing system. It can perform 229,000 additions or subtractions, 39,500 multiplications, or 32,700 divisions[3]. In the movie, IBM 7090 was rented by NASA to replace calculations by humans. Dorothy Vaughan learned how to program it to prevert hers(and her team) to be displaced by this machine.
  • Land Phone (still using) -- In the movie, land phone was used to communicate within the nasa, and when contacting John Glenn at Redstone test stand.
  • Terrestrial Television (old technology) -- When the rockets were launched, they were broadcasted on TV. In the movie scene, almost every people watched the launching on the TV.
Citations
[1] Ralph H. Didlake, KK5PM; Oleg P. Odinets, RA3DNC (28 September 2007). "Sputnik and Amateur Radio". American Radio Relay League. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
[2] National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, “Redstone Test Stand (U.S. National Park Service).” www.nps.gov/articles/redstone-test-stand.htm.Retrieved 26 April 2018.
[3] Pugh, Emerson W.; Johnson, Lyle R.; Palmer, John H. (1991). IBM's 360 and early 370 systems. MIT Press. p. 36.

Topics

The Topics that are covered in the movie that we have discussed in class are intellectual property, government, and privacy. Intellectual Property is brought up when Katherine tries to put her name on the calculations she's made, but her supervisor makes her take it off, preventing her from taking credit for her work. As for Privacy and Government, at first Katherine isn't able to see all of the information on the calculations, because some of the equations require security clearance

Information Privacy

Katherine worked in aeronautics (NACA)’s West Area Computing unit, before she was sent to Space Task Group to check the mathematical calculations. In the movie, Stafford blacked out every classified data before handed it to Katherine. But, she put the papers up to the light to understand the full math equation, which also show the classified words, such as the project name “ATLAS.”

Mary Jackson need a degree at University of Virginia to be promoted to an aerospace engineer at NASA. At that time, the courses were hold in all-white School, which made hers to go to court to get permission to attend the classes. She is the NASA's first black female engineer.

Intellectual Property

Katherine Johnson wasn’t allowed to put her name on the calculation sheets, that she worked with Stafford in Space Task Group, and not welcomed to attend the meeting. It is another example of how there were racial undertones in the film.

Computer Reliability

Nasa rented IBM7090, which costs $500,000 today’s money, without knowing how to program in Fortran. The machine yielded different results on different days, which required NASA went back to human calculator, which proved more correct and reliable results.

Computer Reliability

Nasa rented IBM7090, which costs $500,000 today’s money, without knowing how to program in Fortran. The machine yielded different results on different days, which required NASA went back to human calculator, which proved more correct and reliable results.

Timeline

  1. In 1961, mathematician Katherine Goble works as a human computer in NASA, in West Area computer division, alongside her friends, engineer Mary Jackson and acting-supervisor (unofficial) Dorothy Vaughan.
  2. Russians launch their first man, Yuri Gagarin into space, leaving the US behind in the race.
  3. IBM 7090 -- is general-purpose data processing system. It can perform 229,000 additions or subtractions, 39,500 multiplications, or 32,700 divisions.
  4. Katherine is assigned to the Space Task Group, working alongside the main engineers., led by Al Harrison. She was the first black woman on the team.
  5. Katherine colleagues are demeaning, showing subtle but clear signs of racism in the workplace.
  6. Dorothy pushes for the title of supervisor, unsuccessfully.
  7. Mary is assigned to the space capsule heat shield.
  8. Mary submits an application for an official NASA engineer position.
  9. She is informed that she needs to take some classes in then-segregated University of Virginia, which is why she goes to get a court order.
  10. Katherine meets National Guard Lt. Col. Jim Johnson, at a barbecue, but he voices skepticism about women working at NASA.
  11. Jim apologizes and he and Katherine start to connect.
  12. Katherine develops a solution to a complex mathematical problem and she impresses everyone.
  13. Harrison finds out that Katherine walks a half-mile to use the colored people’s bathroom.
  14. Harrison knocks down the “Colored Bathroom” sign, saying “Everyone pees the same color here at NASA”.
  15. Dorothy learns about the new computer systems that are coming to replace them, the IBM 7090.
  16. Harrison allows Katherine to participate into meetings, but Paul Stafford, the lead engineer still doesn’t allow Katherine to author reports.
  17. Dorothy visits the computer room where they had been trying to set up the IBM 7090. She fixes an issue and puts the machine to work.
  18. Dorothy visits a library to learn Fortran, but she can’t find that book in the colored section, so she visits the white section, stills the book and gets thrown out of the library
  19. She starts teaching her department programming to.
  20. Katherine job is finished at the Space Task group, so she gets reassigned to West Area Computers.
  21. She marries Jim Johnson
  22. The day of the rocket launch, Harrison observes that IBM 7090 had calculated different values on different day. Harrison calls in Katherine so she can make sure the calculations are correct.
  23. The mathematicians are replaced by IBM 7090.
  24. Katherine gets reassigned to Analysis and Computation Division
  25. Dorothy supervises the Programming Department
  26. Mary becomes an official engineer at NASA.

Meeting Minutes

April 18, 2018 -- 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
April 22, 2018 -- 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM

Powerpoint slide

Hidden-Figures.pptx