Rear Admiral Grace Hopper: Queen of Code

Pio­neer­ing and rather wit­ty pro­gram­mer, and Rear Admi­ral in the US Navy, Grace Hop­per has been called the Queen of Code — that’s a pret­ty good list of titles there. Here’s her bril­liant expla­na­tion of the dif­fer­ent between a nanosec­ond and a microsec­ond:

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:

And to wrap up, an inter­view with Let­ter­man where she just nails it: