Betty Jean Jennings (later Bartik) was born on a farm on the outskirts of Alanthus Grove, in Missouri on December 27, 1924. The town had a total population of 104 people and her family that had almost no money but deeply valued education. Her father was a teacher and taught in a one-room schoolhouse, and her mother, although she had dropped out of school in the eighth grade, helped out by teaching algebra and geometry. Betty was the sixth of seven children in the family, all of whom went to college. Betty attended Northwest Missouri State Teachers College in Maryville. When she finished in January 1945, a professor showed her a pamphlet inviting female mathematicians to work at the University of Pennsylvania, where women worked as "computers" calculating artillery trajectory tables for the Army. The ad read:

Wanted: Women With Degrees in Mathematics....Women are being offered scientific and engineering jobs where formerly men were preferred. Now is the time to consider your job in science and engineering....You will find that the slogan there as elsewhere is “WOMEN WANTED!”

Betty, who had never been out of Missouri, applied. Meanwhile her father kept sharing opening for local high schools looking to hire math teachers. But Betty wanted out of the small town. Almost three months later a telegram arrived. She had been hired! The telegram said “come immediately” and Jean took the phrase literally. She boarded a midnight train and arrived at Penn forty hours later, on March 30, 1945.

A few months after the arrival of Betty Jean at Penn, a memo circulated that 5 jobs were open to work on the mysterious machine that was being built behind locked doors on the first floor of the Moore School of Engineering. "I had no idea what the job was or what the ENIAC was," Betty said. " All I knew was that I might be getting in on the ground floor of something new, and I believed I could learn and do anything as well as anyone else."

When she went to interview for the job she realized that 12 other computers were also interviewing, all with more experience than her. She decided to stay and one by one the women were called in for a private interview. When she was called in Herman Goldstine asked her what she knew about electricity.

“I’ve taken a physics course,” Betty responded. “I know that E equals IR.” she said describing Ohm's Law, which defines how an electric current flow is related to voltage and resistance.

“Well, that’s not what I mean,” Herman responded. “My question is, are you afraid of it?”

He explained that the job involved plugging in wires and changing switches. Betty, laughing, answered no, she wasn’t afraid of electricity.

As the interview was coming to an end, Adele Goldstine walked into the room, looked at her and nodded. After a few days, Betty learned that 5 Computers had been offered a job, plus two alternates, and she was the second alternate. It looked like that would be the end of it. But then as it was already summer, and the job required to attend a training during the summer. 2 of the selected Computers turned down the job. On a Friday afternoon Betty was asked if she could be ready to go to Aberdeen the next Monday morning. Betty answered “YES!”

And so that’s how she became one of six human computers chosen to work on ENIAC. She and the team taught themselves ENIAC's operation and became its (and, arguably, the world's) first programmers.