Tech

Grace Hopper: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

grace-hopper
Today’s Google Doodle is of Grace Hopper, an esteemed Navy Rear Admiral with landmark achievements in computer science. Here’s 5 Fast Facts.

1. Grace Has Been Called the ‘Mother of Computing’

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In 1952, Grace wrote the first computer compiler. While many people were involved in the final product, she was a key player in this important technological breakthrough and its originator. Before compilers, programming code was machine-specific, and therefore considerably cumbersome to distribute and write. Compilers allowed for “machine-independent” software, meaning programs could be written and used on multiple machines.

Grace believed that programming should be simple. According to Navy.mil:

Hopper believed that programming did not have to be a difficult task. Since computers only read binary codes, a series of 0s and 1s placed in a certain order that the computer understands, she believed that programs could be written in English and then translated into binary code.

2. ‘Amazing Grace’ as She Was Known Was Among The First Female Admirals in the Navy

Hopper’s accomplishments, work ethic, and philosophy led her to be known as “Amazing Grace.” In addition to creating the first compiler, she also helped create COBOL (a programming language), and standardized the military’s computers so that databases could be accessed more easily.

According to Russell McGee, she was the first female Admiral in the Navy, but Grace says she was 6th or 7th in the Letterman video on Fact 4.

Yale.edu says that “Amazing Grace” received numerous awards for her achievements:

In 1969, she was awarded the first ever Computer Science Man-of-the-Year Award from the Data Processing Management Association. In 1971, the Sperry Corporation initiated an annual award in her name to honor young computer professionals for their significant contributions to computer science. In 1973, she became the first person from the United States and the first woman of any nationality to be made a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society.


3. Hopper is Rumored to Have Coined the Term ‘Debugging’

The story goes that Grace’s associates were working on a computer and found a moth inside of it. It was funny to her and her co-workers because the term “bug” already existed, and they had literally found a bug. According to Wikipedia, Grace then remarked “they were “debugging” the system.”

The log where this is written is kept at the National Museum of American History, but it is not on display.
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4. Grace Was Known for Her ‘Nanoseconds’ Visual Aid and Excellent Quotes

You can watch her show the example on David Letterman in 1986 at 4 minutes and 28 seconds:

Some of her classic quotes include:

“If you do something once, people will call it an accident. If you do it twice, they call it a coincidence. But do it a third time and you’ve just proven a natural law!”

Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, “We’ve always done it this way.” I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.


5. The U.S. Navy Destroyer USS Hopper is Named After Her

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It is only the second US Navy Warship to be named after a woman within the Navy’s own ranks.

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