Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (9 December 1906 – 1 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.
- We must include in any language with which we hope to describe complex data-processing situations the capability for describing data. We must also include a mechanism for determining the priorities to be applied to the data. These priorities are not fixed and are indicated in many cases by the data.
Thus we must have a language and a structure that will take care of the data descriptions and priorities, as well as the operations we wish to perform. If we think seriously about these problems, we find that we cannot work with procedures alone, since they are sequential. We need to define the problem instead of the procedures. The Language Structures Group of the Codasyl Committee has been studying the structure of languages that can be used to describe data-processing problems. The Group started out by trying to design a language for stating procedures, but soon discovered that what was really required was a description of the data and a statement of the relationships between the data sets. The Group has since begun writing an algebra of processes, the background for a theory of data processing.
Clearly, we must break away from the sequential and not limit the computers. We must state definitions and provide for priorities and descriptions of data. We must state relationships, not procedures.
- As quoted in Management and the Computer of the Future (1962) by Sloan School of Management, p. 273
- 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.
- As quoted in the U.S. Navy's Chips Ahoy magazine (July 1986)
- 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
- Variant: That brings me to the most important piece of advice that I can give to all of you: if you've got a good idea, and it's a contribution, I want you to go ahead and DO IT. It is much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.
- The future: Hardware, Software, and People in Carver, 1983
- Actually attested since mid-19th century.
- 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)
- There's something you learn in your first boot-camp, or training camp: If they put you down somewhere with nothing to do, go to sleep — you don't know when you'll get any more.
- 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 Computer] was the first machine man built that assisted the power of his brain instead of the strength of his arm.
- They're going right to building them bigger and bigger and faster and faster. They'd do much better to build a system of computers and have them operate in parallel. We'd get much more done, faster. (…) My analogy is that back in the early days of this country, when they moved heavy objects around, they didn't have any Caterpillar tractors and they didn't have any big cranes. They used oxen. And when they got a great, big log on the ground and one ox couldn't move it, they didn't try to grow a bigger ox. They used two oxen.
The Wit and Wisdom of Grace Hopper (1987)
- "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.
Quotes about Hopper
- But Grace, then anyone will be able to write programs!
- Widely reported quote regarding the development of COBOL circa 1954, but as yet unsourced.
- Admiral Hopper, ... is the first woman to receive America's highest technology award as an individual. The award recognizes her as a computer pioneer, who spent a half century helping keep America on the leading edge of high technology.
- Wit and Wisdom of Grace Hopper
- Grace Hopper in Chips, the United States Navy information technology magazine
- "Grace Murray Hopper", in Biographies of Women Mathematicians, at Agnes Scott College
- "Grace Hopper", at the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive
- Website for the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing
- Grace Murray Hopper Award
- Schlesinger Library Luncheon Series : Audio collection, 1979–1987 (inclusive): A Finding Aid, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University
- Grace Hopper on Late Night with David Letterman (2 October 1986)