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rows of women with calculators to compute firing tables; with Hopper’s programming, the Mark I could do the job in record time.


Compilers and COBOL Hopper could have returned to teaching after the war, but by then she was well aware she was helping to make history, and she stayed with Aiken at Harvard, where she worked on the Mark II and III computers. In 1949, she went to work for Eck-


ert-Mauchly Computer Corp., helping develop the UNIVAC — Universal Au- tomatic Computer — a fully electronic system created for the Census Bu- reau and the first computer capable of translating numbers into letters, which set the stage for a revolution in the nascent computer industry. Hopper realized subroutines now could be stored and assembled by the computer itself, instead of tediously copied from a notebook. She wrote a piece of code, called a compiler, that retrieved and stacked subroutines in the computer’s memory to create a program. She later created a more capable version called MATH-MAT- IC, but the true breakthrough came with her FLOW-MATIC compiler, which for the first time allowed cod- ing in plain English. By 1958, all Navy shipyards were using it. By then, however, several compet- ing programming languages were


PHOTOS: NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND


In 1947, Hopper recorded the first actual “computer bug” (left), a moth trapped in the Mark II. (above) President Ronald Reagan congratulates Hopper following her 1983 promotion to rear admiral (then commodore).


in use. DoD realized a standard was needed and established a committee to create one, with Hopper taking a major role. What emerged in 1959 was COBOL — Common Business- Oriented Language — largely based on Hopper’s FLOW-MATIC compil- er. Like its predecessor, COBOL was a plain-English computer language that made programming more widely accessible — and once more, Hopper had a hand in its creation. COBOL was a resounding success,


in large part because any company wanting to do business with DoD had to use it. One of COBOL’s key advantages: It could run on comput- ers made by different manufacturers, which greatly accelerated its adop- tion by both the military and private industry. By the mid-1960s, Hopper was so famous in Navy circles she no longer had to apply for standard two-week training stints. Instead, at the Navy’s request, she spent that time helping naval installations set up their own computing systems. As a teacher, she was finally in her element — until a letter arrived from the chief of Naval Personnel in 1966: It was time to retire. Although a rebel in the world of computing, Hopper was a faithful naval officer,


and on the last day of the year, she reluctantly separated from service.


So much for retirement Hopper’s retirement didn’t last long. Seven months later, the Navy called again: Something had to be done about COBOL. In the years since its creation, differing versions of the language had emerged, creating con- fusion and conflict. Hopper was mus- tered back into the Navy Reserve and assigned the task of standardizing the Navy’s computers, restoring order to its high-level programming languages. The job was to


DIGITAL EXTRAS [CONTINUES ON PAGE 106]


 What is a nanosecond? Rear Adm. Grace Hopper, USN, offers her famous expla- nation of a nanosecond.  Grace Hopper visits David Letterman. Shortly aſter retiring from the Navy in 1986, Hopper appeared on Late Night With David Let- terman.  U.S. Navy tribute to Grace Hopper. This official video reviews Hopper’s con- siderable contributions to the service. Click on each caption above


to view the corresponding video about Grace Hopper.


MARCH 2014 MILITARY OFFICER 55


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