75 years of Innovators: Grace Hopper

Jan. 8, 2004
Anyone who has written a computer program in a language like Basic, Cobol, or Fortran, can thank Grace Hopper for saving them the mental strain of having to learn the computer's native tongue of 0s and 1s.

In the 75 years since Machine Design began publication, here are some of the people who have changed the way we live.

Grace Hopper got idea for the term "bug" from an incident in which troubles in the Mark II computer were traced to a moth trapped in one of its many relays. The moth was removed -- the first time a computer was debugged -- and is now on display in the Smithsonian Institute.

Grace Hopper
Computer linguist and software pioneer

She is credited with building the first compiler, the software that translates between machine language and programming languages. Compilers turn computers from specialized calculators into general-purpose problem solvers. She also wrote several programming languages, including Flow-matic for the Univac 1, the first large computer, and Cobol, the most widely used language for business programs. Her work laid the foundation for numerous computer concepts common today, including subroutines, formula translation, relative addressing, code optimization, symbolic manipulation, and the linking loader.

Hopper was also the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Yale University, the first woman admiral in the U.S. Navy, and the first person to call a software or hardware error a "bug."

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