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Celebrating Grace Hopper, One of the First Female Developers

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She didn’t believe computers should be limited to a specialized group. Hopper helped advance technology to make computers more user friendly for both programmers and users.

By Betsy Mikel (Contributing Writer, Women 2.0)

You may have noticed today’s Google Doodle, which features a woman typing a formula into an old-timey computer. The doodle is celebrating what would have been Grace Hopper’s 107th birthday.

Long before Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates brought us innovation, “Amazing Grace” —  navy admiral and computer scientist — was working towards bringing computers to the masses by standardizing processes and writing not just code, but writing the programs themselves.

Thanks to her vision for bringing the computer to a wider audience, she pushed for tools and computer languages that could be easily accessible by both programmers and users. Grace Hopper paved the road for not just for female computer scientists; her innovations advanced the entire field of information technology.

“The only phrase I’ve ever disliked is, ‘Why, we’ve always done it that way,’ ” the LA times quoted her as saying. “I always tell young people, ‘Go ahead and do it. You can always apologize later.’ “

Some of her most notable accomplishments include:

  • Primary designer of Common Business-Oriented Language (COBOL), one of the oldest programming languages used by business.

  • Was one of the first people to program on the Harvard Mark I, one of the first electro-mechanical computers used by the U.S. Navy.

  • Pioneered teaching computers to “speak” English by transforming binary code into instructions a computer could execute. Her first compiler eventually led to a design that could perform business tasks like automatic billing and payroll calculation.

  • Advocated for the international standardization of computer languages.

  • Credited with coining the term “debugging” to tackle glitches in computer systems when she removed a moth from Mark II.

  • Received many awards and much recognition for her work, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Department of Defense’s highest non-combat decoration.

  • Her legacy inspired the creation of Anita Borg Institute’s Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women In Computing Conference, which is designed to bring together women technologists for increased visibility for the contributions of women in computing.

Happy birthday Grace Hopper!

Photo via miss karen / Filckr.

Which of Grace Hopper’s accomplishments do you find the most impressive?  

BMikelPhotoSquareBetsy Mikel is a freelance copywriter and content strategist who helps brands, businesses and entrepreneurs tell their stories. A journalist at heart, her curiosity drives her to find something new to learn every single day. Follow her on Twitter at @betsym.