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Lynn Conway, the trans woman who changed computing in the modern world, dies aged 86

Graham Robson June 12, 2024

Lynn Conway, the trans woman who helped shape the way chips are designed, has died aged 86.

Conway broke ground both for her contributions to the tech industry and for her gender transition at a time when such a move was rare among professionals.

In the 1970s, Conway helped author Introduction to VLSI Systems, a seminal book in the field of chip design that became the standard textbook for a generation of aspiring semiconductor workers.

The VLSI approach to semiconductors β€” the acronym stands for Very Large Scale Integration β€” paved the way for the modern “systems-on-a-chip” that power smartphones, laptops and other devices.

Conway began her career at IBM Research in 1964 and had hoped to continue working at IBM but was fired in 1968 after announcing her plans to transition.

In 2020, IBM formally apologised and held a public event in her honour, which “brought closure” to a dark period in her life.

Conway’s death brought an outpouring of online appreciation both from technologist and from numerous trans people.

 

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