Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age (Lemelson Center Studies in Invention and Innovation series)

Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age (Lemelson Center Studies in Invention and Innovation series)

Kurt W. Beyer

Language: English

Pages: 408

ISBN: 0262517264

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

A Hollywood biopic about the life of computer pioneer Grace Murray Hopper (1906--1992) would go like this: a young professor abandons the ivy-covered walls of academia to serve her country in the Navy after Pearl Harbor and finds herself on the front lines of the computer revolution. She works hard to succeed in the all-male computer industry, is almost brought down by personal problems but survives them, and ends her career as a celebrated elder stateswoman of computing, a heroine to thousands, hailed as the inventor of computer programming. Throughout Hopper's later years, the popular media told this simplified version of her life story. In Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age, Kurt Beyer reveals a more authentic Hopper, a vibrant and complex woman whose career paralleled the meteoric trajectory of the postwar computer industry. Both rebellious and collaborative, Hopper was influential in male-dominated military and business organizations at a time when women were encouraged to devote themselves to housework and childbearing. Hopper's greatest technical achievement was to create the tools that would allow humans to communicate with computers in terms other than ones and zeroes. This advance influenced all future programming and software design and laid the foundation for the development of user-friendly personal computers.

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captured in Mark I’s official name: Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator.2 Each sequence of coding on the punch tape was broken down into three sections of eight round holes no more than 1/16 inch in diameter. The first section instructed the machine where to find its data; the second indicated where to place the results; the third dictated the process to be applied. The holes were punched according to an eight-bit code that spatially correlated to the numbers 1 through 8 (the number 9

to abide by the peacetime directive of a 40-hour workweek. For this reason, it hired a second shift of operators and programmers. Numbers also increased because of the need to design and build the Mark II and Mark III. Because Aiken would not receive direct assistance from IBM or any other commercial manufacturer, the appropriate number of engineers and technicians had to be hired to meet the terms of the contract. One of the first hires after the war was Harry Goheen, who had received his

. . . of some of Aiken’s friends to form another self-adulation society for the benefit of non-IBM people, and they were opposed to that. I mean, they didn’t realize that we were a bunch of outs, I’m sure. But their attitude was: these are some of Aiken’s boys.” 65 According to Goheen, it took considerable reassurances on the part of Berkeley to placate the IBM crowd, and eventually all sides called for a vote. The 78 people in attendance elected Edmund Berkeley as (Prudential Insurance) acting

only available avenue was to generate cash flow by receiving partial payment on UNIVAC purchase contracts—a difficult task with an unproven technology and an uninformed customer base. It would take all of John Mauchly’s proselytizing talents to sell the vision of a computing future.18 Mauchly first turned to an organization with a history of supporting radical calculating technology: the United States Census Bureau. The Census Bureau was established in 1790 to track population demographics to

DISTRIBUTED BIOGRAPHY For much of the twentieth century, biography was an accepted and widely utilized genre within the history of technology. Early texts praised the pioneers of various technologies, including Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers.17 The ideal of the selfless individual inventor tinkering in a basement or a garage for THE MYTH OF AMAZING GRACE 19 the benefit of society resonated with both academics and lay readers. This hagiographic approach served to advance the virtue of

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