Important women in the history of IT: Grace Hopper

Posted on Sunday 21 May 2017.

Grace Hopper

by Sadie-Rae Gartell

Born in December in New York in 1906, Grace was known as quite an interesting and curious child. At the age of seven she wondered how the mechanics of an alarm clock worked and took seven apart to figure it out.

Grace initially didn’t get into Vasser University when she applied because her grade in Latin wasn’t high enough but was accepted the following year and obtained a bachelor degree in physics and maths. She continued her study of mathematics to Ph.D level.

In 1949 Grace was hired by E.M.C.C as senior mathematician and joined the team developing UNIVAC I. Grace recommended a new programme language that should be developed entirely in English but this idea was shut down because it was believed computers did not understand English, she pushed this idea for three years writing a paper on the subject compilers, during this time her company was taken over by another and her compiler work was finished under the new company. The compiler was known as the A compiler and its first version was A-0.

Grace’s strong belief in computers being able to understand words and not just numbers was embraced by COBOL and in the 1970s Grace developed the implementation of standards for testing computer systems and components, most significantly for early programming languages such as FORTRAN and COBOL, making her best known as ‘Amazing Grace of Computer Software’.

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