She is also credited with popularising the word “debugging” in computing after having to remove a moth from a Mark II Computer in 1947. Frankly I’m surprised the moth mucked around with her computer, she didn’t sound like a person to take on (though her comments show she was supportive of people around her too). She also encouraged risk taking:
“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”
This comes from a 1986 interview with a computing magazine called Chips Ahoy (love the name). The interview, Only the Limits of Our Imagination, is really interesting and she was so percipient of where computing would go. When asked what new and exciting things computers would do next, she pointed out that different groups of people were already carving these out but no one was noticing:
“Here’s another one. If you do counted cross stitch, there is a program that lets you put your pattern on the screen. … I don’t think people are paying attention to other people who are handling unique types of information.”
It’s an interesting focus to pick as the origins of programming are, at their roots, in the textiles industry with the looms weaving complex patterns. I wonder if she had this in mind, or even if it was a dig pointing out that computer people weren’t seeing what a traditional women’s craft could have to do with programming? She also comments on networking computers with modems as being the way to go and that water shortages will become a big issue in the future — something I think will probably become more and more true in this century. Her unofficial title, Queen of Code, made me think of the portrayal of Ada Lovelace in the book The Difference Engine.
For a quick introduction to her extraordinary life, here’s another YouTube viedo: