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Amazing Grace

Grace Murray Hopper Collection, 1944-1965, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper


It might not be marked on the calendar, but this week is the annual Grace Hopper Celebration, an event that has been celebrated every September since 1994. Even if you do not know her name, you most certainly know her work. Every time you use a computer, open an app on your smart phone, or do anything with any kind of digital technology, it is due -- in large part -- to the remarkable innovations initially introduced by Grace Hopper.  


Hopper was a software developer, and she worked with some of the first electronic digital machines. In those early days, computers were large -- taking up entire rooms. And programming was difficult if not close to impossible -- relying either on binary code or incredibly complex assembly instructions. Hopper changed that once and for all. She developed a new way to write for the computer, something we now call high-level programming languages. Although she might be best known for the invention of COBOL, her innovations have influenced and informed every computer programming language and application since that time.  


Without Grace Hopper, the computer would still likely be just a clunky calculating device. There’s a good reason she is called “Amazing Grace.”  


We all know and recognize the names of the men who dominate the history of computer technology: Alan Turing, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs. It is now time to add the name Grace Hopper to this list and to celebrate the innovations of women like her who have made our digital world possible. 


I'm David Gunkel, and that’s my perspective.

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