The Myth of Grace: A BIT of Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age

The Myth of Grace: A BIT of Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age

Kurt W. Beyer

Language: English

Pages: 29

ISBN: 2:00268087

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The career of computer visionary Grace Murray Hopper paralleled the meteoric trajectory of the postwar computer industry. This BIT describes the myth of “amazing Grace” and tells how she became “the third programmer of the world’s first computer.”

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unorthodox things and wanted to tackle unorthodox problems.”15 But after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the lighthearted mood of the NYU mathematics department changed. For the rest of her time there, Hopper’s work was dedicated to somber problems concerning national defense. IN SEARCH OF A NEW PATH “I finished that year [with Courant], and then of course when we were in the thick of it, my brother and my husband and everyone wanted in,” Hopper recalled.16 Vincent Hopper left NYU and

ordered to Harvard, and my orders were changed during the time I was at Midshipmen’s School,” Hopper stated.26 Through no choice of her own, Lieutenant (j.g.) Grace Hopper was about to become the third programmer of the world’s first computer. Grace Hopper on the day of her graduation from the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School in Northampton, Massachusetts, 27 June 1944. Courtesy of Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. The Automatic Sequence

ability to ingratiate herself to Aiken and her fellow workers. Of course she was a talented mathematician and computer programmer, but more importantly she was loyal to her boss and helped to organize and control his laboratory. She actively erased gender differences through her clothing, her language, her drinking habits, and her humor, gaining the trust and respect of Aiken and her peers to the point that she became the most prominent person in the Harvard Computation Laboratory apart from the

Williams, Admiral of the Cyber Sea, 20. 18. Ibid. 19. Grace Hopper, interview by Beth Luebbert and Henry Tropp, 5 July 1972 (COH-SI), 9–10. 20. Elizabeth Allen Butler, Navy Waves (Wayside, 1988). 21. Hopper, interview, 15 July 1968 (COH-SI), 25. 22. Ibid., 25–26. 23. Ibid. 24. Ibid., 26–27. 25. Ibid., 27–28. 26. Ibid. 27. For more on Aiken, see I. Bernard Cohen, Howard Aiken: Portrait of a Computer Pioneer (MIT Press, 1999). 28. Grace Hopper, interview by Christopher Evans,

instructions, professional publications, and flow charts. At the dawn of the computer age, Hopper’s work laid the foundation for the programming profession. Principles of code preparation, logical program design, documentation, and testing flowed from her work on Mark I, Mark II, Mark III, and UNIVAC. Her training as a mathematician enabled her to communicate with and to master the new machines. The individuals who came to be known as programmers in the 1940s and the 1950s shared this crucial

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