Google Doodle Honors Grace Hopper, Early Computer Scientist

Kicks off Computer Science Education Week with tribute to woman who taught computers to use words

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Today’s Google Doodle celebrates what would have been the 107th birthday of computer pioneer Grace Hopper (1906-1992) just in time for the “Hour of Code” kicking off Computer Science Education Week.

Hopper created COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language,) the program that allows computer to communicate through language as well as numbers. She joined the Navy Reserve in 1943, when she was teaching mathematics at Vassar, and finally reached the rank of rear admiral in 1985. Hopper, who repeatedly un-retired, became the oldest woman in the armed forces at the age of 76.

Hopper is credited with coining the term “bug in the system” because of the time she actually found a bug in a computer. As TIME described it in 1984:

She gets credit for coining the name of a ubiquitous computer phenomenon: the bug. In August 1945, while she and some associates were working at Harvard on an experimental machine called the Mark I, a circuit malfunctioned. A researcher using tweezers located and removed the problem: a 2-in. long moth. Hopper taped the offending insect into her logbook. Says she: “From then on, when anything went wrong with a computer, we said it had bugs in it.”

(The moth is still under tape along with records of the experiment at the U.S. Naval Surface Weapons Center in Dahlgren, Va.)

She was also famous for her incredible work ethic and unique way of interpreting time. When teaching her students about nanoseconds, she would show them a length of wire that represented the distance electricity could travel in a nanosecond:

In her commencement speech to the Trinity College class of 1987, which was excerpted in TIME, she said:

There’s always been change, there always will be change . . . It’s to our young people that I look for the new ideas. No computer is ever going to ask a new, reasonable question. It takes trained people to do that. And if we’re going to move toward those things we’d like to have, we must have the young people to ask the new, reasonable questions. A ship in port is safe; but that is not what ships are built for. And I want every one of you to be good ships and sail out and do the new things and move us toward the future.

MORE: (Learn about Google’s plans to radically extend the human lifespan)

 

45 comments
pbug56
pbug56

Amazing Grace was the father/mother of so much of modern business and other computing.  That she also busted through the glass ceiling in the navy to achieve 2 star rank as a Rear Admiral is both amazing and right!

dkadams8
dkadams8

I first met Grace Hopper on my first day with UNIVAC in early 1962, in the offices at 17th & Walnut in Philadelphia.  I was given one of the sea of desks on the 2nd floor(no cubicles then), and was promptly introduced to an elegant older lady a few desks away, who was clearly in charge- in a mother-hen fashion- of about a dozen men and women at their desks, heads-down working on what was surely computer code, which I believe was something about early database management.  Following the introduction, I was politely ignored.  The next time I met her was in the UNIVAC center in Rome, about 1970- she showed up very correct in her Navy uniform, and promptly sat down to lecture a few of us systems folk.  Soon from her purse came a little bundle of very thin wires, and we got the marvelous nanosecond story.  I keep looking for my wire these days, but it was easy to waylay...

One of my favorite Grace stories was her reaction when a subordinate would come into her office with something to say, and made the mistake of using the "y'now" filler.  Grace would point to a jar on her desk.  The subordinate was obliged to produce a coin and clink it into the jar.  Discipline in language, be it computer or conversation, defined this very special lady.  DK Adams          

GregRivera
GregRivera

I think Google knows about the "bug" in the calculation. After 107 is displayed a "real bug" flies out of the machine.

BillMauchly
BillMauchly

Grace was a bit of tart in her early days, according to the new autobiography of another woman software engineer who worked alongside her at Eckert-Mauchly,  Jean Jennings Bartik.  

wintermotog
wintermotog

I'm surprised no one has called Google on their bad logic.  You can't just take current year minus birth year and come up with your age.  If you haven't had your birthday yet in the current year, the result is wrong.

Also it's better COBOL practice to use the COMPUTE AGE = CURRENTYEAR - BIRTHYEAR syntax rather than using the SUBTRACT x FROM y GIVING z syntax.

saratsarat7
saratsarat7

More intresting news efyo.weebly.com/windows.html

DonZimmer
DonZimmer

I had the distinct honor to have saluted Admiral Hopper (then a Navy captain) as she got out of an Army sedan and entered the officers club at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana in the spring of 1980.  I was standing outside of the club when the sedan pulled up to the entrance.  The vehicle driver, a young soldier, came around to the right rear door, opened it, and out came this sprightly elderly woman in a Navy uniform, with the silver eagles of a Navy captain on her shoulders.  I immediately snapped to attention and rendered a hand salute which she crisply returned.  She entered the club and I stood there with an apparent look of surprise on my face.  The young soldier driver looked at me and said, "She's some kind of computer genius."  Later I found out that the "computer genius" was Grace Hopper who was on base for what purpose I know not.  At that time, the base was home of the Army's finance center so, perhaps, she was working on or advising the Army about its computer system there.  I shall never forget my stroke of good luck in being so close to such a brilliant computer pioneer and being able to honor her with a salute.  A brush with history.

dserlin13
dserlin13

You can easily find on You Tube a fabulous clip of her interview on the David Letterman show shortly after she retired.  She is still sharp as a tack, good sense of timing, and again using teaching aids to show Dave things about time and space.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-vcErOPofQ

Lillian4444
Lillian4444

Thank you for sharing this great video about Grace Hopper. I hadn't heard of her before and I enjoyed her teaching style immensely! 

jabberwolf
jabberwolf

Funny, Time doesn't do a damned thing about Google ignoring Pearl harbor anniversary. But honors Hopper (who I admire) who was proudly in the USA marine reserves for WW2.

jimgawn
jimgawn

I was one of the recipients of then-Commodore Hopper's lengths of wire.  But that length was calculated, I believe, from the speed of light in a vacuum, which is the speed limit for everything.  This serves as a rule-of-thumb upper bound for the speed of propagation of electrical signals in copper wire, or for the speed of light in glass fiber.  But both of these are somewhat slower than the speed of light in a vacuum.  That said, however, Hopper was illustrating the trade-off between size and speed in computing equipment, and the limits that each placed on the other.  As such, the 0.3 meter (~1 foot)  piece of wire was a very effective teaching aid.

mmhkyp
mmhkyp

If she "reached the rank of rear admiral in 1985," wouldn't that have made here the oldest woman in the armed forces at the age of 79 - not 76?.

RichMaringer
RichMaringer

@Raul Soto - Not "was".  It "IS" used to code business programs.  There are many businesses including Fortune 500 companies that still use COBOL.  There are too many systems out there written in COBOL to just simply rewrite the code into a different language.  It is common now to write programs in a modern language to interface with your legacy programs such as COBOL.

R_in_ROLM
R_in_ROLM

 When ROLM Corp introduced it's first product, a MIl-Sped Computer at the FJCC in Las Vegas in 1969, she appeared at our booth and asked the most direct, observant and interesting questions for 20 minutes.  I was not familiar with WAVE uniforms and thought she was a "Salvation Army" lady who knew a lot about computers.......little did I know.

slittle1959
slittle1959

Anybody else see the errors in the Google Doodle for today honoring Grace Hopper.  Subtract Birth Year from Current Year Giving AGE. Display Age.  Using 2nd grade math I get 1906-2013= -107.  Using Higher level Math I know that until today she was 106 (using the code shown she would be -107 for the entire year)!  I think I'll use my one hour of coding to fix this problem! #Irony



RaulSoto
RaulSoto

The following is incorrect:

"Hopper created COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language,) the program that allows computer to communicate through language as well as numbers. "

1. COBOL is not a program, COBOL is a computer programming language. 

2. The description of COBOL is also wrong. COBOL was a programming language that allowed programmers to write code that resembled natural language a little bit. It was used mostly to code business programs. 


PhilBlank
PhilBlank

But what about ADA?

Ada was originally designed by a team led by Jean Ichbiah of CII Honeywell Bull under contract to the United States Department of Defense (DoD) from 1977 to 1983 to supersede the hundreds of programming languages then used by the DoD.

Ada was named after Ada Lovelace (1815–1852), who is credited as being the first computer programmer.

DentonAc
DentonAc

Lovely woman, I really wish I was able to sit in on one of her lectures.  It's rare the world has such a dedicated individual that is literally willing to spend their whole life in the pursuit of knowledge and betterment of mankind.  Her willingness to inspire the youth is where, I think, she really shined.  She knew the youth is the future and made sure to pass her knowledge and drive as best as she could.  A true inspiration beyond her end, I hope more people read about her amazing story and listen to some of her recorded lectures so her work can continue many years from now.

ateabo
ateabo

If you subtract 1906 from 1992, you get 86... not 107...

UmAh
UmAh

@jabberwolf Time didn't do a damned thing about Google ignoring The Spanish-American War.


REMEMBER THE MAINE!!!

favpapa
favpapa

@jabberwolf Honestly, to make a doodle for Pearl Harbor Day would in my opinion diminsh the date.  A doodle is a cartoon....Pearl Harbor was a tragedy.

DonDeyne
DonDeyne

@jimgawn When I got mine in circa 84 she explained it as the length electricity (in memory but it could have been light) travels in a nanosecond.  While the details of what was traveling is fuzzy the NANOSECOND part was the real point.  My favorite from her was "it's easier to get forgiveness than permission".  Not sure she coined it but it was the first time I'd heard it.  Salute Commodore (her rank when she entered my conciseness) Grace from a crusty retired AF MSgt.


gwarden
gwarden

@mmhkyp They are just talking about when she re-entered the service there, not when she made rear admiral.

lswiger
lswiger

@R_in_ROLM

worked on ROLM 1603 when I saw my first training film of Adm. Grace still remember that nanosecond!

bartz118
bartz118

@slittle1959 You didn't read the statement correctly.  subtracting the birth year from current year means 2013 minus 1906.  If it was your way the code would state "subtract current year from birth year".  I still have to write cobol programs at my current job.

BillKleinsturn
BillKleinsturn

@RaulSoto

1.  It is both, unless you have a different definition of what a compiler is (which is a specialized program that also runs on a computer to generate machine code from higher-level programming statements).

2.  As COBOL was the first compiler, and no longer required coders to use machine language to input their programs, its seminal leap up to the use of simple English statements was more than just "a little bit" in the context of those times.

slittle1959
slittle1959

@bartz118 @slittle1959 Okay so on July 4th, 2013 of this year she would have been 107!  The code is still what word do I want to use ....... "buggy" 

BillKleinsturn
BillKleinsturn

@slittle1959 @bartz118  What kind of sloppy programmer are you?  Your "improvement" is omitting her birth hour, birth minute, and birth second from the calculation.  In fact, Admiral Hopper would have approved if you took the results down to the nanosecond!

slapsley87
slapsley87

@BillKleinsturn@ateabo 

I think they were referring to Google's homepage, which states that today is  Grace Hopper's 107th birthday when you scroll over the doodle. 


That's why I looked further into this, in fact, as I don't personally believe birthdays accumulate after the person is deceased.

BillKleinsturn
BillKleinsturn

@ateabo Technically, that's why the original article was phrased correctly with "would have been" and thus you are either a troll or need a refresher in English Comprehension.