Grace Hopper | 格蕾丝·霍普

Humans are allergic to change. ” They love to say, “We’ve always done it this way.I try to fight that.  That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counterclockwise.” — Grace Hopper

When referring to her development of the compiler before getting permission from her boss, she said:

“It’s always easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

She often encouraged young people:
“A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

Grace Hopper is an American mathematician and computer scientist.   She served in the Navy and ranked Admiral Rear at the end of her career.   Her greatest technical achievement was to create the tools that would allow humans to communicate with computers in terms other than ones and zeroes, such as a compiler that compiles higher level language to language that computers understand, which are zeros and ones.   This advance influenced all future programming and software design and laid the foundation for the development of today’s user-friendly personal computers.

You can read more about Grace Hopper at many websites.  An example is History of Computers and Programming.  But the book or the video (the second one above) by Kurt Beyer is more interesting.   The story is informative and engaging.  Did you know that she was arrested for drunk driving and was in rehab for being alcoholic after the war?  Innovators and pioneers are humans.  Wow!Not only did he describe the time and place that created Hopper and computers, but also her life and her career development, technology such as compiler that helps computers.    Compiler helps computer to help programmers program itself.    Doesn’t it ring a bell?  Deep learning?

An inventor has to be a good salesperson.  Hopper was a good salesperson.   She involved as many people as she could.  She made institutions to push her visions forward.  Seventy percent of active code is COBOL, the language she led the development and marketing.

You manage things and lead people.” How to lead people?  Give them a purpose, an urgency, a vision (which includes war unfortunately).

Learning from the margins: experts sometime cannot think outside of the box.  One way to keep the box open is to learn different fields.

Technology is not inevitable: human beings at the early part of a technology development can influence how the technology develops.   She had a counter clockwise clock in her office.  The point is that: you can design it anyway you want it to be.

She had a sense of country and devotion that is rare in Silicon Valley today, as Kurt says.   In other words, her patriotism is exemplary.

We recommend a few videos:

  1. The first video is from computer programming online school UdaCity.  It is a good short summary.
  2. The second one is from Kurt Beyer.  It is very long and but is the most interesting one!  You need to be a little patient during the clip from 1:00 to 5:00.    This talk tells the story in history, and the event (Pearl Harbor) that change the history of computing.
  3. The third video is from Department of Defense, which is official.
  4. The fourth one is funny:  her interview at the David Letterman show, where she gave Mr. Letterman a nano stick.
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