The Journey to Modern Computing Grace Murray Hopper

The Journey to Modern Computing – Grace Murray Hopper

Grace Murray Hopper is popular for developing a way for people to use computers by giving the computer its instructions in English. Grace Murray Hopper was born in 1906 and got her Master’s in Mathematics in 1931 at Yale. She was also a reserve soldier in the United States Navy during World War II. She was a computer scientist who served in the Navy as a Ship computer project manager. She did her job so well, that they named a Navy vessel after her. She also did such a good job at the Harvard Computational Lab, where she worked in the 1940s and 50s that they also named a supercomputer after her.

Grace Murray Hopper was a bit nosy as a child. She took apart clocks and other gizmos because she always wanted to figure out how things worked. By the time she was all grown up and a Professor, she was working for the US Navy and also worked for the computer company EMCC. Of course, this was way back in the 1950s Computers were very big and could only be used by typing instructions using only code and symbols. Back then, Computers couldn’t process English and so, nobody used Computers except for the Government and its organizations. Users had to hire mathematicians to operate them, and computers could only do Arithmetic calculations. The first computer back then was called ENIAC.

Grace Hopper though, had been a Mathematician and Computer expert for some time now and she determined, that it was possible to input instructions into the computer in English, and the computer would still operate. This way, people like Data Processors could use the computer and not just Mathematicians. What was needed was a compiler, that would translate the English Instructions to Machine Language, so the computer could operate. At first, not many people bought the idea, because back then, everybody thought computers could only run with Machine Language.

Later though, the company she worked with was placed under new management and she was put with a Team that used her compiler model to develop UNIVAC I; The first computer that was general-use (Businesses and Firms could use it). From there, new programming languages were developed like COBOL, which was used to design computer applications. This eventually led to others coming up with even more programming languages. COBOL is still used today to make some programs.

Throughout all this time Grace Murray Hopper was in the US Navy reserve. At first, early during World War II (in 1941), she tried to join the main Navy force but couldn’t because she didn’t have the right body build. She was also valuable to the Military as a Mathematician and Computer expert and so she couldn’t be risked on the front lines. She then joined the reserve force (they don’t fight at the front lines but man the battleships at the harbor). She trained for a year in Military Camp. She was then referred to the Bureau of Ship Computation where she worked with the Computer programming staff.

She later retired from the Navy. Before she died in 1992, She had received over 40 honorary degrees from different institutions all over the world and many medals for Military valor.

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