Grace Who?

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If you’ve taken a look at Google Doodle today then you may have noticed that today would be the 107th birthday of Grace Hopper. But who, you may ask, is she?

Grace Hopper is the reason your computer speaks in English or any other word based language for that matter, instead of complicated mathematical equations. Born in 1906 Hopper would go on to be the first woman to gain a doctorate in maths from Yale in its 233 year long history. This however was just the beginning of her contribution to the world of computing as we know it.

Grace Hopper is probably most famous for the Compiler; a system that translated the type of language used in source code into a language more widely recognised. The very idea that a computer could take English language commands at the time was seen as a ridiculous, impossible notion. “Nobody believed that,” she said. “I had a running compiler and nobody would touch it. They told me computers could only do arithmetic.”

You think computers are difficult to understand now, try finding your way around one before the introduction of FLOW-MATIC and COBOL, back when everything needed binary input. To all those business savvy web programmers out there who falter at mathematical processes, you have Hopper to thank for the fact that you can use worded commands to run a computer.

And if you ever happen to wonder why you use the term ‘bug’ for a fault in your computer, well that would also be as a result of Grace Hopper. Though when Hopper first coined the term she meant ‘bug’ in a very literal sense; having found a dead moth in the computer system causing it to malfunction. Despite the unlikelihood of that becoming a problem now, the term seems to have stuck!

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