- August, 2022
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There are a lot of inspirational women in the world, but today, we want to appreciate the ones from our IT industry. Our world was impacted by them, and they played a significant role in our history. So, these are their stories.
The creator of the first complier
Meet Grace Murray Hopper, an astonishing American mathematician and computer scientist who revolutionized the IT sector. Let’s dive into her story.
A young girl of 25 years old, having recently earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University, began an exciting new chapter in her life as a professor of mathematics at the prestigious Vassar College. Unfortunately, there were clouds on the horizon – World War II broke out. As a girl with a brave heart, as she was, she promptly resigned from her job and enlisted in the US Navy Reserve as part of the WAVES (Woman Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) initiative. Tiny woman, weighing only 49 kg, about 7 kg less than the required minimum, she was accepted to serve as a lieutenant in the team in charge of the Mark I computer program. Soon, it became obvious that this was the decision that would change the world of the IT industry.
The year was 1947. and Amazing Grace was working on a Mark II computer at a Navy laboratory. Suddenly, the computer broke down. Her team went to investigate the problem, and they weren’t disappointed when they found out what was the cause of the problem. Suspect number one was a tiny moth! It was stuck in the relay and couldn’t get out. Quickly, the problem was solved and once the bug was removed, it was taped to the day’s log sheet with a notation: “First actual case of a bug being found”. This incident is commonly accepted as an early example of computer “debugging,” and Hopper is credited for popularizing the term. Even now, if you visit the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., you may see the moth’s remains taped into the group’s log book.
Two years later Grace Harper continued her journey and became a part of the team building the first commercial computer, the UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer).
Finally, the year 1952 was a year to remember, Grace Hopper made history. She became a developer of the first compiler and, undoubtedly, it counts as one of the most significant discoveries in the field of computing.
Let’s be clear, all computers, both the ones we use now and those from Grace Harper’s time are capable of only understanding binary language. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why this discovery was so immense: it opened the door to the practice of writing code in a language that was readable by humans.
The compiler had the power to take the text that we can read and transform it into a series of numbers that the machine can read. In the wake of this groundbreaking finding, Grace Hopper was named the company’s first Director of Automatic Programming at her company.
And that was just a start for this extraordinary woman.
Under her guidance, some of the first compiler languages, like MATH-MATIC and FLOW-MATIC (the first English-like data processing language, a.k.a B-0, Business Language version 0), made their appearance. In 1959, she was a part of the CODASYL consortium, who consulted Hopper to guide them in creating a machine-independent programming language. This collaboration bore fruit. Inspired by her idea of a language being based on English words they created something amazing. The COBOL language (Common Business-Oriented Language) came to life. Grace Hopper’s vision finally started to blossom and became a reality. She became “Grandma COBOL.”
Grace Hopper was a woman with a vision and someone extraordinary, with the ability to think off the beaten track. She was free to act and break boundaries. Most of today’s most popular computer programs, including Microsoft Windows, are based on “Amazing Grace” and, as a token of their gratitude, Microsoft established a foundation in her honour, from which over three thousand scholarships have been awarded to talented students.
Learn from this remarkable woman and take notes, don’t be afraid to think creatively and unconventionally. Step out from your comfort zone, and always push the limits – everything is possible if you try hard enough.
“Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.”