Queen Of Computer Code
by Harini Sri S
Harini was the Adult Tech Category Winner of the Bytes and Pieces Writing Contest.
Have you written a program using only numerical code? Grace Hopper, a pioneer in programming, deserves credit for every command you enter into your computer. Yes, Grace Hopper was the one who invented the compiler.
Hopper was born in New York City on December 9, 1906. She went to a preparatory school in New Jersey when she was younger. She afterwards registered at Vassar College. Hopper attended Yale University after receiving her bachelor’s degree, where she went on to complete her PhD and Master’s degrees in mathematics. Hopper joined the U.S. Naval
Reserve (Women’s Reserve) in December 1943 and took a leave of absence from Vassar College, where she was an associate professor. She was then assigned to the Harvard University Bureau of Ships Computation Project.
Grace was encouraged to explore by her family. She disassembled her alarm clock when she was seven years old to learn how it functioned. When she was unable to put it back together, she made the decision to further her research by disassembling the other seven alarm clocks that were dispersed across her family’s home. Grace’s mother encouraged her curiosity but urged her to pay attention to just one clock in the future. Being a woman in a time when women weren’t regarded equally to men was perhaps the biggest challenge Grace Hopper faced. This was particularly true for Hopper’s chosen careers in early computer sciences and his time spent serving in the US Navy.
The Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator was a project on which the Navy sent Grace Hopper to Harvard University in 1944. The Mark calculator was created and manufactured by IBM. It was labelled a “impressive beast”. It weighed over 10,000 pounds, was 51 feet long,
3 feet deep, and 8 feet high. She worked with two co-workers as a “computer programmer” — a phrase that hadn’t yet been coined. On the team, she was the lone female.
Modern programming languages that enable human operators to instruct computers what to do with a limited number of commands were made possible thanks to Grace’s compiler. Grace collaborated with a team of programmers in the late 1950s to create a language that could be used on various computers and by many types of enterprises. COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language), which was first released in 1959, quickly rose to the top of the list of computer coding languages used globally.
Grace has advocated for computer science openly throughout her career. She frequently urged kids to think about studying computers. She also takes delight in demonstrating how computers and coding worked, frequently taking sample wires to conduct simple demonstrations.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Grace Hopper for creating the compiler, which made life easier whereas designing a program in numerical code would be a nightmare.