Home More Remembrances of Grace Hopper

More Remembrances of Grace Hopper

In our trivia challenge earlier in the month we mention Grace Hopper, who invented the first complier, coined the word “bug” for a literal insect stuck inside one of the first room-sized computers, and helped develop COBOL. All this was done in and out of several stints in the US Navy and in private industry. In looking around the Web this week for some additional mementos on this wonderful woman, I came across this interview with David Letterman when she was nearing 80 and working as a “goodwill ambassador” for DEC. She certainly can hold her own in the interview.

As Letterman introduces her, he says “she has credits far too impressive for any guest on his program” and he might be correct. The interview, which lasts ten minutes, shows how much gumption she has and how sharp she was even at that age. He asks her how she knew so much about computers back in the day, and she replies matter of fact and to much applause, “I didn’t. It was the first one.” She even comes to the interview with her own props, and shows a thin wire the length of which would take a signal to traverse in a nanosecond, and to Letterman’s amazement, a chip that is the size that a signal would travel in a picosecond. Remember, this was at a time when PCs were first coming into corporations in a big way, and these terms hadn’t yet become as familiar or commonplace.

Hopper, who died in 1992, was a real force to be reckoned with and the interview is a real treat.

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