The Myth of Grace: A BIT of Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age (MIT Press BITS)
Kurt W. Beyer
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This MIT Press BIT is excerpted from the 2009 MIT Press publication Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age by Kurt W. Beyer.
The career of computer visionary Grace Murray Hopper paralleled the meteoric trajectory of the postwar computer industry. This BIT describes the myth of "amazing Grace" and tells how she became "the third programmer of the world's first computer."
officer training, she was under the impression that upon graduation she would be assigned to the Navy Communications Annex. The Communication Annex consisted of a covert cadre of mathematicians and logicians tasked with breaking enemy codes. Modern warfare’s dependence on wireless communications for command and control augmented the status of these technical elites, for knowledge gleaned from intercepted enemy communications could influence a war’s outcome as much as traditional determinants such
unintelligible numbers. Robert Campbell had quickly thrown it together in the spring of 1944 while running test problems on Mark I after it was brought from IBM’s laboratory in Endicott to Harvard. Not only was Campbell Mark I’s first programmer; during 1943 and the first half of 1944 he also served as manager of the project. Aiken had been called up to active duty and assigned to the Naval Mine Warfare School in Yorktown, Virginia. Aiken had chosen the clever young physicist from a list of
he had won the Dexter Award for the top-ranking freshman. Bloch envisioned becoming a college professor, but (as happened for so many young men of his generation) the repercussions of Pearl Harbor translated into an unintended career choice. Upon graduation, he reported for midshipman training at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and in September 1943 he was stationed at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. “We all wanted to do our thing, and my idea was to get on the biggest ship
Cambridge, Massachusetts HCL Harvard Computational Laboratory, Harvard University Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts HOL Francis Holberton Papers, Charles Babbage Institute, Center for the History of Information Technology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis HPL History of Programming Languages Conference Records, Charles Babbage Institute, Center for the History of Information Technology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis ISP Isaac Auerbach Papers: Charles Babbage
systems and the unlimited acquisition and disposition of property to the forced purchase by Federal Reserve Banks of government obligations. Indeed, the events in Hawaii that Sunday morning profoundly changed America. Moreover, 7 December would also be the chronological fulcrum from which Grace Hopper’s own life would pivot. In the months that followed that fateful day, Grace Murray Hopper would leave her position as a tenured professor at Vassar College, divorce her husband, and join the U.S.