In an age of smartphones and tablets, it can be hard to imagine a time when the typical computer weighed 5 tons and took up more space than your boss's office. Grace Hopper worked on one of those behemoth machines, and helped create one of the first computer programming languages, COBOL. Today's Google Doodle celebrates her birthday.
Sometimes referred to as "the Mother of COBOL," Hopper is credited with making a computer programming language that actually resembled a language instead of a series of mathematical operations. COBOL, short for Common Business-Oriented Language, was intended to make computer programs accessible to the business world the same way that the Fortran language opened up computers to research scientists.
Today's Google Doodle shows an example program that Hopper would write to calculate and display her age. But it also shows something else that she's known for: coining the word "debugging."
When she was working on the Harvard Mark 1 computer, Hopper saw that the machine was making mistakes. As it turns out, a moth was jammed between two of the computer's moving parts, causing the errors. She taped the dead insect into her book and wrote the note "First ACTUAL bug found." Luckily, the Google Doodle's computer didn't need to be debugged, as the moth survived its trip through the machine.
Appropriately enough, today also marks the beginning of Code.org's initiative, "Hour of Code." The week-long event is advocating that schools across the country teach students at least one hour of logical thinking and computer science fundamentals sometime this week.