Those of you who’ve already used the world’s most popular search engine this morning likely were greeted by a brief animation: A woman operating an old-school, room-sized computer, which spit out the number 107 and what appears to be a moth.
It’s an unusual place to find a visual representation of Navy history, but it’s an honor, nonetheless — the Google “doodle” comes on what would’ve been the 107th birthday of Rear Adm. Grace Hopper: primary developer of the Common Business Oriented Language, better known as COBOL, and an officer whose career spanned five decades.
Head to Naval History and Heritage Command for the full write-up, but even the short version is remarkable: After earning advanced degrees in mathematics and physics from Yale in the 1930s, Hopper joined the Reserve in 1943 and was summoned to active duty, becoming the first programmer on the Navy’s room-sized Mark I computer at Harvard.
She left active duty in 1946 but stayed at Harvard, developing new Mark models and eventually retiring from the Reserve in 1966. The next year, she was on active-duty for what was supposed to be a half-year assignment assisting with the Navy’s data-processing automation efforts; 20 years later, she retired again, involuntarily, a year after advancing to rear admiral. She died in 1992; the destroyer Hopper was commissioned in 1997.
Why the moth? In addition to the heavy lifting Hopper performed in forwarding the computer age, she also helped along the slang — when a moth flew into the Mark II and caused a computer error, she pulled it out and taped it into her log book, creating the concept of a “computer bug” and an image that’s appeared in too many tech and Navy publications to count (and yes, that’s it on the right, again).