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Janice Lourie and patent attorney Charles Boberg at IBM in 1970. Below them is a monitor displaying a pattern she created with her software.
Janice Lourie and patent attorney Charles Boberg at IBM in 1970. Below them is a monitor displaying a pattern she created with her software.Courtesy of IBM

Back in 1954, Lourie was a technical editor, playing clarinet in a Boston-area ensemble, when the pianist, an MIT chemist, hired her to process data on punch paper tape.

β€œIt was a pretty rote job,” said Lourie, now 90, over Zoom from her home in Arlington, Vt. The chemist published a paper on the project, and in a footnote mentioned Lourie as a contributor.

“It felt wonderful,” she said. She was off and running.

She speaks humbly about her work in computers, as if her path unfolded purely by luck and circumstance. In 1957, IBM hired her, and she moved to New York, where she devised a program implementing a new computer language, LISP, developed by John McCarthy at MIT. The research helped

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