Grace Hopper

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It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (9 December 19061 January 1992) was a U.S. Naval officer, and an early computer programmer. She was the developer of the first compiler for a computer programming language; at the end of her service she was the oldest serving officer in the United States Navy.

Quotes[edit]

From then on, when anything went wrong with a computer, we said it had bugs in it.
  • To me programming is more than an important practical art. It is also a gigantic undertaking in the foundations of knowledge.
    • As quoted in Management and the Computer of the Future (1962) by Sloan School of Management, p. 277
  • From then on, when anything went wrong with a computer, we said it had bugs in it.
    • On the removal of a 2-inch-long moth from the Harvard Mark II experimental computer at Harvard in 1947, as quoted in Time (16 April 1984). Note that the term "bug" was in use by people in several technical disciplines long before that; Thomas Edison used the term, and it was common AT&T parlance in the 1920s to refer to bugs in the wires. Hopper is credited with popularizing the term's use in the computing field.
  • At present, we're putting on paper a lot of stuff that never needed to be on paper. We do need to keep the records. But there isn't any reason for printing them. The next generation growing up with the computers will change that.
  • It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.
    • As quoted in the U.S. Navy's Chips Ahoy magazine (July 1986)
    • Variant: If it's a good idea, go ahead and do it. It is much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.
      • As quoted in Built to Learn : The inside story of how Rockwell Collins became a true learning organization (2003) by Cliff Purington, Chris Butler, and Sarah Fister Gale, p. 171
  • I handed my passport to the immigration officer, and he looked at it and looked at me and said, "What are you?"
    • On being the oldest active-duty officer in the U.S. military, in an interview on 60 Minutes (24 August 1986)
  • In total desperation, I called over to the engineering building, and I said, "Please cut off a nanosecond and send it over to me."
    • On demonstrating a billionth of a second of electricity travel with a piece of wire, in an interview on 60 Minutes (24 August 1986)
  • At the end of about a week, I called back and said, "I need something to compare this to. Could I please have a microsecond?"
    • On demonstrating a millionth of a second of electricity travel with a piece of wire, in an interview on 60 Minutes (24 August 1986)
  • I had a running compiler and nobody would touch it. ... they carefully told me, computers could only do arithmetic; they could not do programs.
    • As quoted in Grace Hopper : Navy Admiral and Computer Pioneer (1989) by Charlene W. Billings, p. 74 ISBN 089490194X
  • I've always been more interested in the future than in the past.
    • As quoted in The Reader's Digest (October 1994), p. 185
  • I've received many honors and I'm grateful for them; but I've already received the highest award I'll ever receive, and that has been the privilege and honor of serving very proudly in the United States Navy.
    • As appeared in the October 1986 issue of Chips, a Department of the Navy information technology magazine

The Wit and Wisdom of Grace Hopper (1987)[edit]

Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, "We've always done it this way." I try to fight that. That's why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.
"The Wit and Wisdom of Grace Hopper" by Philip Schieber in OCLC Newsletter, No. 167 (March/April 1987)
  • Life was simple before World War II. After that, we had systems.
  • Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, "We've always done it this way." I try to fight that. That's why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.
    • Unsourced variant: The most dangerous phrase in the language is, "We've always done it this way."
  • We're flooding people with information. We need to feed it through a processor. A human must turn information into intelligence or knowledge. We've tended to forget that no computer will ever ask a new question.
  • You manage things, you lead people. We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership. It might help if we ran the MBAs out of Washington.


Disputed[edit]

  • The wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from.


Misattributed[edit]

  • A ship in port is safe; but that is not what ships are built for. Sail out to sea and do new things.
    • This saying appears to be due to John Augustus Shedd; it was quoted in "Grace Hopper : The Youthful Teacher of Us All" by Henry S. Tropp in Abacus Vol. 2, Issue 1 (Fall 1984) ISSN 0724-6722 . She did repeat this saying on multiple occasions, but she called it "a motto that has stuck with me" and did not claim coinage. Additional variations and citations may be found at Quote Investigator

Quotes about Hopper[edit]

  • But Grace, then anyone will be able to write programs!
    • Widely reported quote regarding the development of COBOL circa 1954, but as yet unsourced.

External links[edit]

Wikipedia
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