What do Women Who Dared and Bug Blocks Have in Common?
The Uncle Goose Women Who Dared blocks feature 32 women in history. The Uncle Goose Bug Blocks showcase the beauty of 28 different insects.
Other than education and fun, what could these two sets possibly have in common?
The answer is Grace Hopper. Hopper was a math professor and naval officer. She was also a pioneer of computer science.
Before Hopper, people would mostly find computers in science labs. By developing the first computer language, Grace Hopper helped make computers more available to all.
During World War II, Hopper worked on one of the world’s first computers: the Mark I. She was one of the first people with the job title “coder” — which we now call “programmer.”
After the war, Hopper helped make the Universal Automatic Computer: the UNIVAC I. This was a huge machine. Around 8 feet tall, it had miles of wires and thousands of tubes. This is the computer that NASA used in the 1960’s to communicate with astronauts who went to the moon.
Hopper proposed that for computers to be faster, they needed to be smaller. She also reasoned that if computers were smaller, they’d also be more accessible to more people.
To make computers even more accessible, Hopper created a way for people to use a human language to talk to computers. She named the language COBOL, for Common Business Oriented Language.
The idea of using a human language to talk to a computer was groundbreaking. Before, highly trained mathematicians would enter symbols so that a computer could understand what to do.
Hopper created COBOL so that non-mathematicians could operate computers. She thought it would make it easier to train more people to enter commands in English than to train them in advanced mathematics.
She was right! COBOL and other natural languages made computers much more accessible to the public.
So what does Grace Hopper have to do with Bug Blocks? The answer lies in the word “bug.”
When people talk about a glitch in computer code, they call it a “bug.” This idiom had been around for decades in the science communities, but Hopper is the person who made it widely popular.
In the 1940’s, Hopper’s computer began to malfunction. Her team found an actual moth stuck in the computer’s circuits!
Known for her sense of humor, Hopper taped the moth to her notebook. Underneath it, she wrote, “First actual case of bug being found.”
Today, if we find a problem in our computer code, we call it a bug. And when we solve problems in our computer code, we call it “debugging.” You can thank Grace Hopper for that!
And if you’re reading this on a computer or smart phone, you can thank Grace Hopper for that, too. Her trailblazing work made computers more accessible to the masses.