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Google Doodle Remembers Computing Pioneer Grace Hopper 157

Posted by samzenpus
from the original-programmer dept.
SternisheFan writes "Monday's Google Doodle honors computing genius Grace Hopper (remembered as a great pioneer in computing, as well as in women's achievements in science and engineering), on what would have been her 107th birthday, doodling her right where she spent much of her time – at the helm of one of the world's first computers."
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Google Doodle Remembers Computing Pioneer Grace Hopper

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  • Grace Hopper Park (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Austrian Anarchy (3010653) on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:48PM (#45641809) Homepage Journal
    I always liked seeing the sign for Grace Hopper Park in Arlington, VA, in front of the apartment complex where she lived for years. Sadly, they did not put "Admiral" on the sign.
    • I always liked seeing the sign for Grace Hopper Park in Arlington, VA, in front of the apartment complex where she lived for years. Sadly, they did not put "Admiral" on the sign.

      There wasn't room due to all the THIS DIVISION and THAT DIVISION and 77 REDEFINES 01-WS-MY-BUTT stuff which, as far as I'm aware, does absolutely bugger all.

  • COBOL (Score:2, Interesting)

    by invid (163714)
    I think we can blame all the faults of COBOL on the fact that she wanted it to be human readable by business managers. What would your programming language look like if the Pointy-Haired Boss had to be able to understand it?
    • Re:COBOL (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:58PM (#45641905)

      I knew somebody would bring that up. In defense of COBOL, 1. Look when it was invented. 2. Look how much staying power it has. 3. Look at the train wrecks caused by later efforts to make easier, more readable programming languages.

      COBOL looks pretty good when you consider all that.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      I think we can blame all the faults of COBOL on the fact that she wanted it to be human readable by business managers. What would your programming language look like if the Pointy-Haired Boss had to be able to understand it?

      Let us not even broach the sins of PL/1

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        PL/I pioneered the free-form syntax used by C, C++, PHP, Java, C# and most other modern languages.
        What other sins has it committed?

        • PL/I was the first programming language I actually learned, as opposed to picking up as I went.
          • PL/1 was the language taught in the only programming class I ever took. I wonder if I still have the textbooks for that class buried somewhere in the basement.
        • by ackthpt (218170)

          PL/I pioneered the free-form syntax used by C, C++, PHP, Java, C# and most other modern languages.
          What other sins has it committed?

          PL/1 incorporated all manner of ugly ways of doing things, borrowing some I/O from COBOL or having something else hacked into it. Inexplicably I had to go back to using PL/1 on one system implementation because the I/O library could hack large I/O buffers, where most other compiler libraries were incapable and was reminded what a sloppy mess of a language it was. You could do just about anything, but it didn't do much of it elegantly. Unless you documented heavily it was difficult to come back to and fig

    • Re:COBOL (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dthanna (1294016) on Monday December 09, 2013 @02:01PM (#45641933)

      At the time you had... Fortran... and Assembler. COBOL was a godsend to the business community. Because of it companies actually invested in computer equipment to do things... that investment reduced the cost and increased its capabilities. Eventually allowing the creation of that smart phone in your pocket. If it wasn't for COBOL it is doubtful that companies would have made the investments.

      Having programed in both COBOL and Fortran... I'll take COBOL for anything business related.

      Yes, it's verbose. But, it was a product of it's time. And quite the amazing language if you know what you are doing with it.

      • Re:COBOL (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ackthpt (218170) on Monday December 09, 2013 @02:15PM (#45642063) Homepage Journal

        At the time you had... Fortran... and Assembler. COBOL was a godsend to the business community. Because of it companies actually invested in computer equipment to do things... that investment reduced the cost and increased its capabilities. Eventually allowing the creation of that smart phone in your pocket. If it wasn't for COBOL it is doubtful that companies would have made the investments.

        Having programed in both COBOL and Fortran... I'll take COBOL for anything business related.

        Yes, it's verbose. But, it was a product of it's time. And quite the amazing language if you know what you are doing with it.

        Anyone who has actually been suffered to write business applications in FORTRAN IV* would rather be disemboweled by a pack of rabid were-weasels than have to do that again and COBOL would appear to be a gift from Heaven.

        I began my education with, what I considered being taught a load of dead or dying languages, while Object Oriented languages were just on the horizon and Pascal and c were gaining degrees of acceptance. c is still around, but I haven't heard from Pascal in ages - it was fiddly, like Modula2 and seemed to embrace the wordiness of COBOL over the conciseness of c. I've converted systems written in COBOL and at least they were readable - what the coder was doing. FORTRAN business apps are nearly unintelligible.

        * note: use of all caps

        • by swillden (191260)

          Anyone who has actually been suffered to write business applications in FORTRAN IV* would rather be disemboweled by a pack of rabid were-weasels than have to do that again and COBOL would appear to be a gift from Heaven.

          Ah, but a Real FORTRAN programmer can write FORTRAN in any language. You ain't see nothing until you've seen a payroll system written in FORTRAN... using COBOL.

      • The COBOL program should be subtracting 06 from 13 giving 7!
    • What would your programming language look like if the Pointy-Haired Boss had to be able to understand it?

      Ruby and Cucumber (at least for your test code)?

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        What would your programming language look like if the Pointy-Haired Boss had to be able to understand it?

        Ruby and Cucumber (at least for your test code)?

        How about something from at least the 1960's or 70's? I can still hear those card punching machines - tick-tick-tack-tick-tick...

    • Re:COBOL (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @02:14PM (#45642049)

      I think we can blame all the faults of COBOL on the fact that she wanted it to be human readable by business managers. What would your programming language look like if the Pointy-Haired Boss had to be able to understand it?

      Thank you for that.

      You see, Ms. Hopper, being ahead of her time in MANY respects, knew that programming should be easily done in a human readable fashion.

      Programming computers should be easy. Having difficult to learn languages defeats the purpose of these machines. Being able to program these things should be easy to everyone and the fact that it STILL isn't shows the ineptitude of the computer science world - or arrogance (dude, computers SHOULD be hard to program because it's for smart people or some such nonsense).

      Computers are a tool, The fact that computer languages haven't evolved much since the 1960s is pretty sad.

      ..

      Please oh please post a flame that languages have evolved so that I can spank you hardily - 50 years and we're still typing esoteric computer code?! Seriously?

      If you think that is the way it is, then YOU have NO imagination.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Agreed, I'm a non techie, and todays computers are less fun and useful than in the win95 era, when I could actually do things with them. Heck, the C64 held far more interest for the average person, you could at least easily learn how to program in basic.
      • by SirGarlon (845873)

        Being able to program these things should be easy to everyone and the fact that it STILL isn't shows the ineptitude of the computer science world

        Programming a computer to do simple things IS easy. You want a program to add up a list of numbers, or compute the value of pi, and I can show you how to do that in a handful of lines of code.

        The trouble is, people want programs that do complicated things like manage a large company's payroll system or model a 3D fantasy world. Even things that sound pretty simple,

      • Computers are hard to program because computers are stupid. That's why the most deadly words ever spoken in the industry are "All You Have To Do Is..." It's hard enough to get other humans to do things right when you tell them what to do, much less computers.

        Some programming languages look more or less like English such as COBOL. Some look more or less like mathematical notation, such as FORTRAN or APL. Some are basically mathematical/symbolic notations on drugs. Each has its advantages, but none of them -

    • by bobbied (2522392) on Monday December 09, 2013 @02:29PM (#45642227)

      What would your programming language look like if the Pointy-Haired Boss had to be able to understand it?

      Lots of comments, very little actual code.

      When I was in school, we had to have over 50% comments or the TA wouldn't even try to grade your program. The habit was a good one, and although I don't always get to the 50% I still put a lot of comments in my code.

      Come to think of it, making your code understandable by the PHB is not a bad goal. If the PHB can understand what you are doing, the next poor programmer (which might be you a few months after you have forgotten the project) will have an easier job fixing something.

      • We are assuming that the code actually does what the comment says.

        • by bobbied (2522392)

          True, but I would assume that's a given in most cases.. Not all, just most..

          • True, but I would assume that's a given in most cases.. Not all, just most..

            I take it you don't work in the business, then.

            I think one of the "Murphy" laws covers what happens to code once you document it.

            • by bobbied (2522392)

              I was commenting on MY comments and those of whom I work with. In general, our comments are related to the code they document, by design, by policy and by routinely checking them in code reviews. Do they always match 100%? No, but that is the exception and not the rule, at least where I work. I fully get that my current experience is *NOT* the norm. Out of the 9 places I've worked as a programmer, my current employer is certainly at the top of the list for producing quality code. Only a few have rivaled

              • by Bongo (13261)

                "Having a conversation with the sketchbook" is a notion in visual design like architecture or construction. For little scripting tasks, I find talking to the comments an exercise in clarifying what I am trying to do and why. The intention, the way it fits the bigger picture. The code is the reality, the comments are the mental intention. Unless it is a very well understood area where to be a programmer you really have to know the domain and the problems very well, so the code is immediately obvious to the t

      • by swillden (191260)

        What would your programming language look like if the Pointy-Haired Boss had to be able to understand it?

        Lots of comments, very little actual code.

        When I was in school, we had to have over 50% comments or the TA wouldn't even try to grade your program. The habit was a good one, and although I don't always get to the 50% I still put a lot of comments in my code.

        That's a very bad habit, and one that you should break. Comments are evil. They are occasionally -- very occasionally -- a necessary evil, but still evil. I'll explain below.

        Come to think of it, making your code understandable by the PHB is not a bad goal. If the PHB can understand what you are doing, the next poor programmer (which might be you a few months after you have forgotten the project) will have an easier job fixing something.

        Absolutely, you want your code to be extremely easy to understand. In fact, that's the #1 goal, even ahead of doing the correct thing, because bugs are more likely to get fixed than unreadability, and in the long run they cost less. Comments are one way of achieving readability, but they're a crutch. Worse, they're a crutch with a bui

        • by Bongo (13261)

          I don't disagree but I'm reading someone's code at the moment, some routines in R, and the word "training" is in the name of a routine, but it doesn't explain in which sense of the word "training". So now I have to try to figure out the meaning of the result. I'm sure it was obvious to the author. Maybe fine grained comments are bad, but an overall story explaining in ordinary words the overall intent and picture would be nice. Anyway, IANAP.

          • by swillden (191260)
            Yes, an overarching narrative is very important. If you're using something like Javadoc or Doxygen, the documentation comments are a fair place for it, but what's often even better is to put it in a design doc, which should be linked from or stored with the code. Design documents also get outdated and become wrong if not maintained, but they should be at a sufficiently high level that this happens very slowly.
    • by Deadstick (535032)

      The WTF blog once featured a tale of woe by a contributor about his interview with a headhunter:

      -Why do you want to change jobs?
      -My employer wants me to become a COBOL programmer.
      -So, you don't like to learn new things?

    • What would your programming language look like if the Pointy-Haired Boss had to be able to understand it?

      It'd have a lot more pictures in it.

      Say, isn't it drag/drop/drool/click programming's turn at the top of the hype heap again?

    • ...human readable by business managers...

      Ah!!! That explains a lot.

      Um... except why anything needed by business managers needed to be HUMAN readable.

    • They had better PHBs back then. No, seriously.
    • I think we can blame all the faults of COBOL on the fact that she wanted it to be human readable by business managers. What would your programming language look like if the Pointy-Haired Boss had to be able to understand it?

      How many programmers of that era were expert in modern corporate accounting, law, banking, business practices and procedures, as they had evolved over the past three or four centuries --- and not merely knowledgeable, but credentialed, as a C.P.A., for example?

      In turn, how many accountants could have read and validated FORTRAN code for accounts receivable?

    • by Krishnoid (984597)

      What would your programming language look like if the Pointy-Haired Boss had to be able to understand it?

      What would it look like? Each line must have a key in the first column:

      • Increases profits
      • Cuts costs
      • The competition is doing it
      • Helps us meet our ship date
      • Makes you look good to the VP

      or it will fail to compile.

      v.2 will have the compiler generate a histogram of keys for a given source file, and the make tool would actually generate graphs. I'm sure a real programming language designer can improve on the design.

  • Women in IT (Score:4, Funny)

    by slapout (93640) on Monday December 09, 2013 @02:04PM (#45641957)

    You know why there aren't a lot of women in IT now, right? It's because after Grace Hopper unleashed COBOL, we're been leery about letting them in.

    (It's a joke! Claim down.)

    • >(It's a joke! Claim down.)

      I claim up. It's higher.

    • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday December 09, 2013 @05:35PM (#45644547) Journal

      You may scoff at COBOL, but she pioneered the idea of using a more human-friendly notation instead of machine language and its cousin, assembler. Her experiments were the precursor to Algol, which shaped all the imperative block-oriented languages we use today, including C, Java, VB, Pascal, etc.

      And it made software more vendor-independent as the languages were not tied to a specific machine architecture, unlike machine code and assembler.

      Before that, many scoffed at the idea of "dumbing down" programming with English-like syntax, fearing it would waste resources and invite poorly educated riff-raff into the field. (Well, maybe it did :-)

      Perhaps Grace didn't get it quite right on the first try, but she helped spark a computer language revolution that led to better tools down the road. She tested waters others feared.

  • by SonnyDog09 (1500475) on Monday December 09, 2013 @02:17PM (#45642087)
    One of my favorite quotes is from her: "It is far easier to ask for forgiveness than permission."
  • Oblig. SMBC (Score:5, Funny)

    by barlevg (2111272) on Monday December 09, 2013 @02:27PM (#45642205)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I got to MEET her. I was a faculty brat at Syracuse where she was a graduation speaker, and through a lot of begging, my dad got me a seat at the speakers table, and she held forth, drinking straight scotch, smoking unfiltered Pall Malls and swearing for two hours. One of the best moments in my life. I'll never forget it, and she's been an inspiration through my career.

    And I have a nanosecond.

  • by whizbang77045 (1342005) on Monday December 09, 2013 @02:45PM (#45642411)
    I have fond memories of her. On the one occasion I got to see her in person, I was a member of a student ACM chapter, and she was our guest speaker. I remember that she had very strong opinions, particularly about IBM.

    At the time, the System 360 was all the rage, and had blue cabinets. She brought an 8080 to the presentation in a small, blue plastic case, commenting that she'd heard computers came in blue boxes. She also commented (again about the 360) that it couldn't be much of a machine, since it spent half of its time talking to itself, a reference to the operating system overhead.

    I've often wondered what she'd think of computers and operating systems today, particularly Windows and Linux.

    R.I.P. Grace Hopper. You're a hard lady to forget!
  • Back in the day, COBOL names were UPPERCASE and used hyphens. So, Grace would have used CURRENT-YEAR, not CurrentYear, as the Google Doodle does. :-)

  • by PPH (736903) on Monday December 09, 2013 @02:58PM (#45642603)

    Only allowed two digit ages and forgot to handle the overflow flag.

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Monday December 09, 2013 @02:59PM (#45642617)

    "If it's good idea, go ahead and do it. It's much easier to apologize than it is to get permission." --Grace Hopper

    * credited with popularizing the term "debugging" for fixing computer glitches

    * Navy destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) is named for her, as was the Cray XE6 "Hopper" supercomputer at NERSC.

    * at the age of seven she decided to determine how an alarm clock worked, and dismantled seven...

    * bachelor's degree in mathematics and physics

    * wrote her own compiler in 1952.. "Nobody believed that," she said. "I had a running compiler and nobody would touch it. They told me computers could only do arithmetic."

    More here of course: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper [wikipedia.org]

    • by barlevg (2111272)

      * credited with popularizing the term "debugging" for fixing computer glitches

      You left out the story of why it's called debugging! From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

      While she was working on a Mark II Computer at Harvard University, her associates discovered a moth stuck in a relay and thereby impeding operation, whereupon she remarked that they were "debugging" the system.

    • by TheHawke (237817)

      And beat managers over the head with a cluebat, stating "the most damaging phrase in the English language is `We've always done it this way.'"

      I know of a few dozen or so managers to this day that needs that cluebat applied to...

      And then some.

  • The first version of this Doodle [google.com] got the algorithm to compute age wrong (!). The original version of the Doodle used the COBOL expression

    SUBTRACT CurrentYear FROM BirthYear GIVING Age

    which actually computes the negative of the age (for most people born after Christ, anyway).

    I wondered whether this might be a nod to her pioneering work in software debugging, as also referenced in the flying moth at the end of the animation, but since Google has since corrected the bug [google.com], it seems even the mighty Google still sometimes commits the simplest of programming errors. (Right on their main page and logo, too. Oooops. I suppose there's also the view that the code was wrong because it was a woman doing the coding. You misogynist Google bastards.)

    Whatever the reason, happy birthday and many thanks to Amazing Grace.

    (full disclosure: I submitted this as a story overnight [slashdot.org], but since it didn't get picked up, it seemed too funny to let it completely slip into the ether.)

  • by Greyfox (87712)
    If I'd invented COBOL during the course of my career, I'd have blamed it on a subcontractor.

An inclined plane is a slope up. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"

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