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A Google Doodle That Honors Computer Programmer Grace Hopper

Hopper was a U.S. Navy Rear Admiral, and in 1959 she helped create COBOL—a program that the military and banks still use today

Today's Google Doodle pays homage to Grace Hopper, the woman who helped design one of the first modern programming languages. Hopper was a U.S. Navy Rear Admiral, and in 1959 she helped create COBOL—a program that the military and banks still use today.

Hopper, who would have been 107 today, also popularized the term "debugging" as a way of fixing computer glitches. TIME has the backstory:

She gets credit for coining the name of a ubiquitous computer phenomenon: the bug. In August 1945, while she and some associates were working at Harvard on an experimental machine called the Mark I, a circuit malfunctioned. A researcher using tweezers located and removed the problem: a 2-in. long moth. Hopper taped the offending insect into her logbook. Says she: “From then on, when anything went wrong with a computer, we said it had bugs in it.”

(The moth is still under tape along with records of the experiment at the U.S. Naval Surface Weapons Center in Dahlgren, Va.)


Not only does "Amazing Grace" have this Google Doodle, but she's also got a Navy Destroyer (the USS Hopper) and a super computer (the Cray XE6 "Hopper") named after her. In 1987, she gave a commencement speech to Trinity College, saying:
There’s always been change, there always will be change . . . It’s to our young people that I look for the new ideas. No computer is ever going to ask a new, reasonable question. It takes trained people to do that. And if we’re going to move toward those things we’d like to have, we must have the young people to ask the new, reasonable questions. A ship in port is safe; but that is not what ships are built for. And I want every one of you to be good ships and sail out and do the new things and move us toward the future.

As one of the first visible women working on computers, Hopper is often a symbol for women who want to enter the world of mathematics and computers. The Anita Borg institute has a Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computer Conference, inspired by Hopper's legacy. And here is Amazing Grace herself, on the David Letterman show:

More from Smithsonian.com:

Should All Students Be Forced to Learn Computer Science?
Computer Programming Used To Be Women’s Work

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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