Understanding computers

Front Cover
West Pub. Co., Feb 1, 1984 - Computers - 490 pages
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Contents

CHAPTER
1
TOWARD
10
First Generation
16
Copyright

65 other sections not shown

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About the author (1984)

Grace Murray Hopper has had a remarkable career in computer science entwined with public service and professional leadership. Her story is a unique chapter in the history of technology policy development in our country. Hopper studied mathematics at Vassar College and Yale University before teaching at Yale and then Barnard College during the 1930s and early 1940s. In 1944 she enlisted in the U.S. Navy and took part in programming the Mark I large-scale electromechanical computer at Harvard University. Within five years, she redefined the meaning and practice of programming by using the computer itself to automatically translate easier (to a human) programming commands into pure machine-level language. The tools that do this are called compilers and symbolic assemblers. Initially, there was widespread skepticism among Hopper's colleagues, who thought either that her system would not work or that the automatically generated program statements would not be efficient. She succeeded, however, and this giant step in automatic programming helped launch the computer age. Although Hopper was not the first person to develop the concept of a compiler (Konrad Zuse had done so 10 years earlier in Germany), she was the first to realize fully its potential and its generality. After the war, Hopper stayed on at Harvard as a research fellow in the computation laboratory until she joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation in Pennsylvania as senior mathematician in 1949. At Eckert-Mauchly she worked on and directed various projects, most notably the development of the computer language COBOL in the late 1950s. Hopper managed to secure the acceptance of COBOL as the standard language for administrative data processing by persuading a variety of government executives to treat it as the standard language for their own groups. Because the government was a large buyer of computers, no computer company could afford not to provide COBOL to its customers. Hopper's second career began in 1971, when she was invited to plan and conduct conferences for government managers to promote the awareness of new developments in computers, especially the great potential of microcomputers. She also consulted on better use of computers in the government and served on the faculty of George Washington University. This work culminated in 1977, when the U.S. Navy asked her to return to active duty to work more intensively on Navy applications of COBOL. She remained on active duty until 1986, when she retired.

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