Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Amazing Grace

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream."

-- Mark Twain
(1835-1910)


This bit of advice from Liberty Quotes this morning reminded me of my favorite maritime quotation, so I sought out its source:

"A ship in port is safe, but that's
not what ships are built for."

I found not only its source, but also the story of an indefatigable pioneer in the nascent computer science field, Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992) who said it.   


Ms. Hopper was a Rear Admiral in the US Navy and an early computer scientist. Her list of accomplishments is impressive.

And while I’m certain you’ve heard this amusing anecdote, perhaps you didn’t realize the significance of Grace Murray Hopper’s reported role in it:

While she was working on a Mark II Computer at Harvard University in 1947, her associates discovered a moth stuck in a relay and thereby impeding operation, whereupon she remarked that they were "debugging" the system. Though the term computer bug cannot be definitively attributed to Admiral Hopper, she did bring the term into popularity. The remains of the moth can be found in the group's log book at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. [Wikipedia]


Over 43 years, she retired from the Navy three times, she made original advances in compiling and COBOL, established computer testing standards, and trained hundreds of computer science students. In a manner, we have all benefitted from Ms. Hopper's legacy in computer science. 

As I now sit, temporarily docked at my own port, I often consider how I have benefitted in taking her advice as well.

2 comments:

HaynesBE said...

Great Story. Thanks for the bright spot in my day!

Lynne said...

I'm glad you enjoyed her story, too.

I reported discovering Ms. Hopper as my "favorite part of the day" at dinner tonight. (Apparently I got quite animated about it as my children told me I was shouting.)