Grace Hopper Google doodle honours ‘mother of COBOL’

Google’s daily doodle that takes the place of its logo on its main search page celebrates computer pioneer Grace Hopper, the created of Common Business-Oriented Language (COBOL) .

Grace Hopper would have been 107 years old today. She was born in 1906 and passed away in 1992. A rear admiral in the navy, became the oldest woman in the armed forces when she turned 76.

Created in the second half of 1958, COBOL is one of the oldest computer languages in existence and is often credited as allowing computers to be programmed with words in addition to numbers. It influenced the development of computing at IBM Corp. and RCA and was one of the first programming languages to be interoperable on two different types of computer.

Although it is ancient in terms of computer languages, COBOL remains a desirable skill to have for IT workers, especially in the enterprise space where legacy systems are still dependent on its workings. COBOL received a full revision completed in 1997 and later had object-oriented syntax added to it, released in 2002.

Hopper was a math teacher before joining the navy and getting involved with the Pentagon’s meetings about computer language. She was known for her unique ability to communicate computer concepts with the public, which is exemplified by her appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, below. Hopper told Letterman about how she was inspired to join the military at age 37 because of World War 2.

“There’s something you learn in your first boot camp or training camp, if they put you down somewhere with nothing to do, go to sleep,” she told Letterman.

She also discusses her title as “queen of software” and explains to Letterman what a “nanosecond” is – a billionth of a second – using a length of wire.

Hopper is also credited with coining the term “computer bug” after literally removing a two-inch long moth from a Mark I computer in August 1945. After that, Hopper would blame bugs for problems she experienced with computers.

Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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