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Grace Hopper, UNIVAC, and the First Programming Language

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the back-in-the-day dept.

Programming 137

M-Saunders (706738) writes "It weighed 13 tons, had 5,200 vacuum tubes, and took up a whole garage, but the UNIVAC I was an incredible machine for its time. Memory was provided by tanks of liquid mercury, while the clock speed was a whopping 2.25 MHz. The UNIVAC I was one of the first commercial general-purpose computers produced, with 46 shipped, and Linux Voice has taken an in-depth look at it. Learn its fascinating instruction set, and also check out FLOW-MATIC, the first English-language data processing language created by American computing pioneer Grace Hopper."

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Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031427)

Maybe we can dispel the myth that only "space exploration spinoffs" gave us the technology to create computers. That's a common myth among Space Nutters.

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031473)

Memory storage in tanks of liquid mercury? Clearly alien technology...

Finally! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031479)

Well, in this case it was ballistic flight - more specifically artillery tables. Of course ballistic flight gave way to rocketry which gave way to SPACE FLIGHT!

Oh My - they might have a point.

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031531)

You mean computers came FIRST? That would be the OPPOSITE of their point.

But you knew that, right? You're able to understand two sentences, right?

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47033457)

I can understand two sentences - but you don't seem to be able to draw a logical conclusion.

If you can't see how ballistic flight and rockets are not linked, then it is quite obvious that your opinion is flawed.

Re:Finally! (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 months ago | (#47031587)

Bah, you're the only one worried about that.

But anyway, all I wanted to say is to go look at that picture. Look at that control panel! Now that's technology. Switches! Meters! A model 30 (?) teletype with key travel measured in furlongs.

(And, as an aside, for a picture in the 1960's it was remarkably 'diverse'. A woman, a black man and and a skinny geek with a tie. Mayhaps we've not moved as far forward as we give ourselves credit for.)

Re:Finally! (2)

PPH (736903) | about 4 months ago | (#47031925)

And, as an aside, for a picture in the 1960's it was remarkably 'diverse'.

The guy with the suit jacket looks Indian. Who called tech support?

Re:Finally! (5, Interesting)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 4 months ago | (#47032153)

I've some doubts about quite a lot of the commonly accepted modern wisdom vis a vis women in the workplace back then and even previously. Most of the women in my family worked outside the home back in the 60s and 70s, some even had excellent careers. I would strongly question the narrative that second wave feminism "liberated" women or did much more than take credit for social changes which were well under way regardless due to increasing average wealth and the invention of labour saving domestic devices.

Going back even further, the book "No Votes for Women" explores some of the realities at the time of the Suffragettes and raises the point that we should be perhaps less asking how shitty conditions were for women in the past but rather asking how comparitively shitty it was for men - the answer is usually quite a bit more:

"Almost immediately after the April committee meetings, Helena Gilder detailed the reasons she opposed woman suffrage in a long letter to her dearest friend , Mary Hallock Foote...

She , like many other anti-suffragists, believed in an inextricable link between military service and voting; only a person able to sacrifice himself on the battlefield earned the right to vote."

"In view of the privileges they already had women did not need political rights. Mariana Van Rensselaer articulated her particular views about women in articles for the New York World in May and June 1894;...She considered the enfranchisement of millions of women a risk not worth taking. Women already held more privileges than men under the law.

Specifically, Van Rensselaer wrote, a woman had control of her earnings, her personal property, and any real estate she owned. She could carry on a business or profession, she had no responsibility for her husband’s debts, and she was not required to support him.

She could sue and be sued, and she could make contracts. She had no obligation to serve on juries. With her husband she had equal rights to their children and, yet, he was obligated to support her and her children. Women were entitled to alimony in the event of a divorce, while a man could not ask for alimony.

She was entitled to one third of her husband’s real estate upon his death, but he was not entitled to her property after death if there were no children. Van Rensselaer concluded that the distribution of labor and privileges between women and men seemed fair, that the different roles of women and men were critically important, and that it was “slander” to claim that men did not already take good care of women."

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47032493)

Which moron tagged this as flamebait?

Good disclosure of fact, Intrepid imaginaut.

Re:Finally! (0)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 4 months ago | (#47033007)

An straight forward example of Stockholm Syndrome?

Re:Finally! (5, Informative)

clovis (4684) | about 4 months ago | (#47033157)

I'm an old guy, and I'm telling you that what you just said was, well, un-educated. It's hard to come up with a good word for that without sounding pejorative, so I apologize in advance. Anyway, I've heard this before and it's bullshit. It always seems to come from people who were born into wealth or privilege.
It's very much like "slaves got free food and shelter, so what were they complaining about argument".

Did you notice that the list of privileges you laid out are all in relation to a husband? For almost all women before the 1960's the only possible comfortable life was by having a husband. People in power had absolutely no problem with refusing jobs, loans, or admittance to anything by saying to her face "no, you're a female, this is for men ". Trust me on this; I was there.

until the 1960's:
Almost no University or medical school (except women's colleges) would accept her as a student unless she was a blood relative of a faculty member or wealthy donor.
Those that did accept women only allowed them into nursing, teaching, or similar programs. yes, I know there were a few exceptions and those were EXCEPTIONS, so don't give us any examples of someone who got in.

Almost no bank would grant a loan for business or property without the written permission of her husband, unless she was a blood relative of one of the bank's officers.
Almost no career advancement path was available for a woman, but they could do the same work with a lower title. Women could be bookkeepers, but not accountants. They could move from clerk to office manager (of clerks), but not district or regional managers.

Yes, there were women that got careers and did well. My mother was one of those, but had to fight bald-faced anti-female discrimination constantly. No one should go through what she did just to get her job done. She was an exception, probably a 5-sigma IQ and also raised as a tomboy, and also had a husband who backed her up. Very few people can't bring to a fight what she was born with; she was one of the exceptions.

But for every one of those there were countless others who had the door slammed in their face or stabbed in the back for the sole reason they were female.

Re:Finally! (-1, Troll)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 4 months ago | (#47033339)

It always seems to come from people who were born into wealth or privilege.

Okay, so straight in with the ad-homs, right.

It's very much like "slaves got free food and shelter, so what were they complaining about argument".

Aaand we're off. Women as historical slaves. Let's take a closer look at that, shall we?

If the woman was a slave, that would make the man the mint julep sippin' massa, right? Except was there ever one single white slave owner who ever died to save the lives of his black slaves? Who ever gave up a space in a lifeboat to his black slave and chose to go down with a ship in their stead? Who ever stood with a rifle between his black slaves and an enemy to defend their lives, rather than his right to own them?

Can you even imagine a white slave owner working 16 hours in a field while his black slave stayed inside most of the day and kept his house tidy, then coming home and sharing the fruits of his labors with his black slave?

Did a black woman who was the sexual partner of a white slave owner have any expectation of respect, lifelong provision or shelter, or of sharing the benefits of his quality of life and his social status? Or was she just an object of the moment, free to be used and cast aside at will? Did a black man who was obligated to obey his owner's wife have any legal right or recourse when she pointed a finger and claimed he raped her? Or was he swinging from a tree within hours?

Yeah, women weren't slaves (except the ones that were actual slaves of course) and it's pretty horrifyingly racist that someone would diminish the experiences of actual slaves by such a comparison.

Did you notice that the list of privileges you laid out are all in relation to a husband?

Yes, that was the point I was making. Wives in comparison to husbands, people of equivalent social status except one has more priveleges than the other, and it turns out that it wasn't the husband. This came from a woman of the time incidentally, and an awful lot of women agreed with her. Of course they were probably also incensed at the attitudes of the suffragettes towards poor folk and those of colour.

For almost all women before the 1960's the only possible comfortable life was by having a husband.

So any unmarried women rapidly died off in poverty?

People in power had absolutely no problem with refusing jobs, loans, or admittance to anything by saying to her face "no, you're a female, this is for men ". Trust me on this; I was there.

And do you think that was because they hated women or didn't want to have to deal with long absences if she got pregnant? There's usually a practical reason for all of this stuff once you scratch the surface and dispense with the hysterics.

Almost no University or medical school (except women's colleges) would accept her as a student unless she was a blood relative of a faculty member or wealthy donor.

Which applied to men also. Third level education was for rich people back then.

yes, I know there were a few exceptions and those were EXCEPTIONS, so don't give us any examples of someone who got in.

Okay, so you know you're wrong and don't want to hear that. At least you admitted it up front I guess.

Almost no bank would grant a loan for business or property without the written permission of her husband, unless she was a blood relative of one of the bank's officers.

I'm self employed and the banks won't give me a loan for property because of the erratic nature of being self employed. The banks don't hate me or treat me this way because of my gender, they just weigh up the chances of getting their money back and decide they can do better elsewhere. Trying to paint this as misogyny or misandry is ridiculous.

Almost no career advancement path was available for a woman, but they could do the same work with a lower title. Women could be bookkeepers, but not accountants. They could move from clerk to office manager (of clerks), but not district or regional managers.

Dorothy Dix was the world’s most successful female columnist of the first half of the 20th century, whose columns were syndicated internationally. Here's one of her columns from 1938:

DEAR MISS DIX – Do you think the girl who is always trying to save a boy’s pocketbook, even though she may not be going to marry him, is appreciated as much as the gold-digger who is out for all she can get? I have always in mind the fact that a boy may not have a great deal of money and try to keep him from spending money upon me, but my friends say I am foolish not to take all I can get, and certainly, as far as I can see, I get no thanks from the boys. So where am I? — Mabel.

Answer – from the way boys complain about how the girls hold them up, and what it costs to take a Jane out for an evening’s diversion, I should think that all the young men of your neighborhood would fall on your neck with loud cries of gratitude.

For the gold-diggers certainly are heartless robbers. They go on the assumption that every youth is a millionaire, although they work right at the next desk to him and are perfectly aware that his pay envelope has no more in it than theirs.

Now that's not to say that pay gap and career issues didn't exist, but I would estimate that they existed for the same reason as they do today, as in nothing to do with paying women less purely because they are women. There are certain jobs where your genitalia will affect your pay rate but they generally aren't pursued by polite society.

But for every one of those there were countless others who had the door slammed in their face or stabbed in the back for the sole reason they were female.

And yet it seems odd that the majority of my older female relations and indeed your own mother somehow managed to not just find work but have good careers during these dark ages of woman hatred. No?

The takeaway is that it's starting to overall look like poor people being ground down by rich people, rather than men grinding down women. Life treated anyone not born with a silver spoon in their mouth pretty badly historically.

Re:Finally! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47033151)

for a picture in the 1960's it was remarkably 'diverse'. A woman, a black man and and a skinny geek with a tie. Mayhaps we've not moved as far forward as we give ourselves credit for.

Agree. By now the black man should have an a white woman's head -- oh, wait. That's right: Michael (Frankenstein) Jackson...
[Diversity Intensifies]

look, it's the moron AC again (5, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 months ago | (#47031623)

no one has claimed only space exploration spinoffs gave us computer tech. once again you raise a straw man and then set it on fire.

However, ICBM and space exploration certainly did drive integrated circuit technology for computers. First computers built of Jack Kirby's solid state integrated circuits used by the air force in Minuteman II guidance system

Re:look, it's the moron AC again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031699)

Sure, but the technology came first. It's not like Kirby woke up one day and sad to himself "gee I really wish we could explore space, let me invent the IC".

There was more than just ICBMs as a reason to build computers. Administrative and business uses, for example. Automation in factories, etc.

Re:look, it's the moron AC again (3)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 months ago | (#47031737)

nope, too expensive at the time, over $400 a chip with a few gates, for those mundane uses. The computer made of them is the point of the argument, only military could afford it at the time. The commercial chips came later

Re:look, it's the moron AC again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47032025)

Yes, the military. No one needed to go into space. All this does is reinforce my point. And in any case, the inventions came from smart individuals, it's not their fault that our social model is so corrupt we only invest massive amounts of money when we think we can kill people.

Don't kid yourself, the "Space Age" was mostly about scaring our enemies by showing what big ICBMs we have. All that "exploration" baloney is just propaganda.

Strangely enough, plenty of banks and companies bought computers, that market alone allowed IBM to create most of the technologies associated with computers in the '60s. Weird that companies could afford transistor computers eh? You think transistors were cheap back then?

So according to you, companies could afford transistor computers, but somehow we needed space to afford ICs?

Really?

The reality is that without space we'd have the same computers we have now. Because people are smart, not because space is empty.

Oh and "mundane uses"? Compared to WHAT in 1961? In the 1950s those "mundane uses" were the CUTTING EDGE of what was possible and people were worried about "electronic brains"!!!

Jesus Christ you're ignorant.

Re:look, it's the moron AC again (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 months ago | (#47032311)

ICBM go into space.

Those commecial uses you mention came later after the military use, 1963 and later to be specific.

And of course many, many other advances in computers driven by the space program since the military use.

try again, try harder, you're losing the argument

Re:look, it's the moron AC again (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 4 months ago | (#47032697)

I guess this doesn't count, because it wasn't in the US.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

Re:look, it's the moron AC again (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 months ago | (#47032739)

Leo doesn't count because it uses discrete components only, no integrated circuits.

Re:look, it's the moron AC again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47032731)

No, sorry, this very story is about a computer that :

"The first UNIVAC was accepted by the United States Census Bureau on March 31, 1951, and was dedicated on June 14 that year. The fifth machine (built for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission) was used by CBS to predict the result of the 1952 presidential election. With a sample of just 1% of the voting population it famously predicted an Eisenhower landslide while the conventional wisdom favored Stevenson."

I believe 1951 came before even Sputnik. I don't think we're even having the same argument, you're all over the place because you can't focus on simple facts.

Computers came FIRST. Because they are USEFUL IN AND OF THEMSELVES. No one needed to go into space. Sorry.

So, answer me this:

"Oh and "mundane uses"? Compared to WHAT in 1961? In the 1950s those "mundane uses" were the CUTTING EDGE of what was possible and people were worried about "electronic brains"!!!"

So? What was mundane about automating a payroll in NINETEEN SIXTY FUCKING ONE?

Try again, space whackjob!

Re:look, it's the moron AC again (2)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 months ago | (#47032819)

you lost the thread pal

I was talking of "mundane uses" of the integrated circuits that were FIRST used to make computers for space-going (though suborbital) ICBM

the computers you mention are made non-integrated discrete components, I'm talking about the improvements to computers like integrated circuit technology that were driven by space

typical anti-space nutter, ignorant of science and technology and the history of either

Re:look, it's the moron AC again (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#47033253)

The problem is that computers built out of discrete transistors were actually cheaper than those built of ICs at least until something like the second half of 1960s or so. In addition, engineers didn't have much incentive to use ICs, not just a financial one, but some even viewed it as demeaning to their circuit design expertise. There was really a lot of misconception about ICs in the engineering circles, and IC vendors sort of had a hard time trying to sell the early circuits. It took the aerospace industry (which was able and willing to pay premium cost for ICs in the 1960s, just as it was able and willing to pay premium cost for high-specced discrete transistors in the 1950s, something that engineers for the commercial market were unwilling to do) to get the whole IC thing off the ground, especially as far as production lines and actual engineering and manufacturing experience were concerned. Without aerospace people (who needed compact, low power parts regardless of their initial cost), it probably would have happened anyway, but quite a bit later, since early on, there were no incentives for the switch in most markets, given how the meager manufacturing automation and only few components on every single chip didn't really contribute to reducing the costs.

Re:look, it's the moron AC again (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#47033137)

So according to you, companies could afford transistor computers, but somehow we needed space to afford ICs?

The Apollo Guidance Computer bankrolled Fairchild's IC plans, taught Fairchild engineers to do actual IC QA properly (which was probably the most important outcome to them), and consumed something like 60% of ICs produced in that era or so. So, yes, there was a significant boost from the space program to the IC ecosystem at that time.

Re:look, it's the moron AC again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47033049)

That's Jack Ki*l*by...

Re:Finally! (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#47031835)

I believe the preferred term is 'astro-nut'.

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47032803)

Geez, people, haven't you realized by now that any AC post using the term "Space Nutter" is from a single longtime troll here who enjoys derailing threads (either that or he is an entirely sincere eccentric with an idée fixe)? No need to feed the troll.

Re:Finally! (1)

msauve (701917) | about 4 months ago | (#47032919)

Government funding certainly accelerated the development of some technologies.

But your apparent sentiment seems correct - in the grand scheme, if the technologies were delayed by 5 or 10 years it wouldn't really matter. It's commercial use and the corresponding economies of scale which really make a difference.

still kept 'safe' from the truth about us (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031465)

it's a beautiful day? WMD on credit cabals supported by US (greed fear ego motives) preserving our 'right' to destroy the body mind & spirit of teaching & we pay for that too http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqUvhDG7x2E arnett .. millions of innocents starving again today with no one responsible or at fault aka hell on earth. feels peculiar no?

only 'smart' bombs used in 'civil' wars (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031549)

what could be wrong about that?

whopping 2.25 MHz (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 4 months ago | (#47031485)

Still faster than my first 8080....

Re:whopping 2.25 MHz (2)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 months ago | (#47031597)

Faster than my first two computers, too, but neither of them weighed thirteen tons! Also, storage access would have been a much bigger problem than clock speed, seeing as how they used mercury switches to store bits.

I found this article about Univac [usatoday.com] fascinating, an account of Univac vs. humans.

...Those circumstances set the stage for the election night dramatics of the Univac â" perhaps the most significant live TV performance ever by a computer. It might just be technology's equivalent of the first Elvis appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Except parents didn't worry that computers were going to destroy the moral fiber of the nation's youth, which shows you how much parents know.

In a few hours on Nov. 4, 1952, Univac altered politics, changed the world's perception of computers and upended the tech industry's status quo. Along the way, it embarrassed CBS long before Dan Rather could do that all by himself...

It also mentions that a musical Hallmark card has more computing power than Univac did.

Re:whopping 2.25 MHz (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031817)

Not mercury switches, mercury delay lines.

Not really (1)

localroger (258128) | about 4 months ago | (#47031603)

Your 8080 didn't spend most of its time waiting for instructions to pop out of the end of its delay line memory. (My first computer was also powered by an 8080, represent.)

Re:Not really (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 months ago | (#47032053)

also, the Univac I did two instructions per clock cycle

Re:Not really (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 months ago | (#47032071)

I meant didn't do, it did about 2000 ops per second

Re:Not really (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 4 months ago | (#47032423)

Talking pure CPU speed here, not 'actual performance'

Re:whopping 2.25 MHz (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#47032043)

Nevertheless, the 8080 probably ran faster due to lower memory latency.

Re:whopping 2.25 MHz (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#47032545)

Nevertheless, the 8080 probably ran faster due to lower memory latency.

Also less down time to replace burnt out vacuum tubes.

Re:whopping 2.25 MHz (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 4 months ago | (#47032637)

Large scale valve/vacuum tube electronics were actually a lot more reliable that radios using the same technology. Heating and cooling does the damage. Keep the things running and they're more than good enough for the GPO's telephone exchanges in the 1930's. This was one of the arguments that had to be won for Colossus, but it was actually a lot more reliable than the bombes.

Re:whopping 2.25 MHz (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#47033071)

They were still quite unreliable. But it's my understanding that what they were doing was running them at reduced power for useful computations (which worked since even the tubes used in computers were always sort of high-power components, comparatively speaking, and you didn't actually need their full power to implement computer logic). Then, in maintenance periods, they'd run them on full power for a while, and replace those that burned out during that period. That is supposedly what actually made it possible to rung long stateful computations even with vacuum tubes.

Nanosecond (2)

p51d007 (656414) | about 4 months ago | (#47031581)

I would have loved to have one of her nanoseconds she use to hand out when asked how long was a nanosecond. I remember when she was on the tonight show with Johnny Carson and told that story. She use to keep a bag full of them with her all the time and would hand them out, when someone would ask how long is a nanosecond. One smart lady!

Grace Hopper and the Tech Ethos (1)

crunchy_one (1047426) | about 4 months ago | (#47031661)

Grace put it so beautifully: "It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission".

Re: Grace Hopper and the Tech Ethos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031857)

And if she wasn't a woman no one would care

Re: Grace Hopper and the Tech Ethos (2)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 months ago | (#47032139)

waddaya talking about, see those geek glasses and big honking nose, she wasn't sliding along on beauty, wan't hired for her looks. she got ahead on brains and accomplishment like a true geek icon

Nanoseconds (5, Interesting)

GlobalEcho (26240) | about 4 months ago | (#47031713)

My mother was one of the first female programmers at Honeywell back in the `70s. Back then, IT companies recruited their programmers from the ranks of mathematicians (like mom).

Grace Hopper was a big hero to her, and one of the things I remember best is mom coming home with a short length of wire given out by Adm. Hopper at a speech -- sized to represent the distance electricity would travel in a nanosecond.

Mom is still coding, by the way, writing custom software for my dad's business in Python/Django/PostgreSQL. Dad complains that she's obsessed with the programming and won't do anything else. Sounds like me...thanks for the genes, mom!

Re:Nanoseconds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031885)

Mom is still coding, by the way, writing custom software for my dad's business in Python/Django/PostgreSQL. Dad complains that she's obsessed with the programming and won't do anything else. Sounds like me...thanks for the genes, mom!

It really is in the genes. In fact no matter how different they may look on the outside you can spot a fellow coder after a few minutes of casual talk. It's almost a need. If I don't code for a while then I get the urge and eventually have to.

Re:Nanoseconds (1)

loftarasa (1066016) | about 4 months ago | (#47032109)

Go Python/Django/PostgreSQL!

Offtopic: on the speed of electricity (1)

tulcod (1056476) | about 4 months ago | (#47032119)

a short length of wire [...] sized to represent the distance electricity would travel in a nanosecond.

You cannot see such a piece of wire. Electrons drift [wikipedia.org] at a speed in the order of 0.0002m/s, giving you a wire length in the order of 10^-13 meters.

Electromagnetic waves "travel" roughly at the speed of light. But when someone talks about the travel of electricity, the thing that people think about is the flow of electrons, not the electromagnetic waves.

Re:Offtopic: on the speed of electricity (1)

tulcod (1056476) | about 4 months ago | (#47032137)

(on top of that, there are no electromagnetic waves travelling along a wire conducting DC current)

Re:Offtopic: on the speed of electricity (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 months ago | (#47032383)

But there are no true DC currents, real current flow is not of constant amplitude and not of infinite duration in time. Therefore, real DC current in the real world always has EM waves associated with it.

Re:Offtopic: on the speed of electricity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47032531)

There are plenty EM waves, what the hell are you smoking? How do you think electrons repel each other?

And EM waves travel not roughly at the speed of light, they travel *at* the speed of light, whatever that happens to be in that medium. In a vacuum, that's "the" speed of light. In a common coax cable dielectric, it's like 60% of that. Even in fiber optics.

*Do* be a dear and stop spreading your pretentious ignorance, OK?

Re:Offtopic: on the speed of electricity (1)

tulcod (1056476) | about 4 months ago | (#47032723)

How do you think electrons repel each other?

Electromagnetic fields, which do not "travel" in any reasonable sense.

The speed of light thing is actually more complicated if you involve relativity and quantum field theory and stuff, which is why I used the word "roughly" to protect myself exactly from people who pretend to know physics. If I had said "exactly at the speed of light", some theoretical physicist would have made some remark about this or that field theory or standard model solution or whatever kind of physics that I don't quite understand.

Re:Offtopic: on the speed of electricity (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#47032579)

(on top of that, there are no electromagnetic waves travelling along a wire conducting DC current)

DC current is not used to transmit information. Even if your message is "00000000000000000..." you would use data compression, Manchester encoding, RS-232, or something else with an embedded clock or framing.

Re:Offtopic: on the speed of electricity (1)

flargleblarg (685368) | about 4 months ago | (#47032275)

But when someone talks about the travel of electricity, the thing that people think about is the flow of electrons, not the electromagnetic waves.

Speak for yourself, eh? I don't think it ever once even remotely occurred to me that someone meant the flow of electrons when they talked about the travel of electricity. I have always thought of the travel of electricity as the flow of the electromagnetic waves.

(Note: I am not an electrical engineer and have not studied electricity intimately.)

Re:Offtopic: on the speed of electricity (1)

tulcod (1056476) | about 4 months ago | (#47032735)

I have always thought of the travel of electricity as the flow of the electromagnetic waves.

Then how does DC electricity "travel" from your phone charger to your phone? (again, there are no electromagnetic waves, even though there may be fields. a wave is a changing field.)

Offtopic: on the speed of electricity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47032293)

Where'd anybody say anything about EM waves?

All it takes is a vector network analyzer to time-calibrate a piece of wire. Hopper's 11.8-inch figure is close enough for government work and, more importantly, its original purpose of helping people put a tangible quantity to the concept. She also used to say that you could put a nanosecond in a pepper grinder and make picoseconds all over the table.

Re:Offtopic: on the speed of electricity (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 4 months ago | (#47033065)

I think you mean a time domain reflectometer. A VNA would be a terrible choice.

HFT places use microwaves or fiber for this reason (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 4 months ago | (#47032799)

They are 2x - 3x faster than copper signals. Those millisconds add up in financial trading.

ultra low latency over microwave and laser link (2)

lophophore (4087) | about 4 months ago | (#47033425)

not fiber. point to point laser and microwave links.

I believe you are referring to ultra-low-latency trading.

They prefer microwave links to fiber because the microwave signals propagate faster through air than light does through a glass fiber. Light travels through glass fiber at about 65% of c, which is also pretty comparable to the velocity of a electric signal in a transmission line (.65 to .75 c) (which is where Admiral Hopper ties in)

Microwave signals propagate though air at damned close to the speed of light, and the microwave signal paths are direct by necessity. That means the path can be significantly less than half the distance a cable (electric or optic) and the speed about 50% faster.

Optical paths are also used, they are by laser through the air. This has the same direct path, near c speed advantages as microwave.

"computer" mean person before 1948 (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 4 months ago | (#47032787)

Insurance companies and some science labs used clerks to make long calculations. The majority were woman. The "electronic computer" was a futuristic machine to emulate such people.

Re:Nanoseconds -That never happened - (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 4 months ago | (#47033265)

Or Grace hopper was wrong.
Electric current moves in the range of a millimeters per second.
A nanosecond long travel range would be invisible to the human eye.
Perhaps you meant 'electric signal'?

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031747)

One garage tall, five thousand tubes wide, thirteen tons of American pride! UNIVACQUEROOOOOOOOOOO, UNIVACQUERO.

Sunday Reads (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031751)

Long, interesting and informative and unapologetically technical essays like this are why I get up early and brew coffee in the morning,

Evidence - you don't need to grow up (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031763)

I love slashdot, and about every 10 postings there is someone ranting about "am I too old to be a programmer." Have some Grace, and do what you like to do. Grace Hopper is a real role model. Just because technology makes you feel like you are playing with toys, does not mean you have to grow up - just go out and play, and build something.

Re:Evidence - you don't need to grow up (2)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 4 months ago | (#47031829)

Easy to say. When Grace was around she wasn't competing against Indian, Chinese, Brazilian and Russian university students being pumped out by the thousands every year.

Re:Evidence - you don't need to grow up (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031907)

Easy to say. When Grace was around she wasn't competing against Indian, Chinese, Brazilian and Russian university students being pumped out by the thousands every year.

I really believe that coding is "in the blood." The problem with countries like India and China is that the economic rewards force people without the "knack" to go into the field -- and suck badly at it. So not only are you competing with someone who works for 1/10th of your salary but they suck at it but go to great lengths to hide that fact (because they aren't busy coding). Sigh. It does suck.

Re:Evidence - you don't need to grow up (0)

retchdog (1319261) | about 4 months ago | (#47032727)

you're not nearly as special as you think you are. if they are able to "hide that fact" successfully, it means that there is nothing remarkable about what you're doing.

grow up, you pathetic fantasist. "coding" is not a particularly heritable property, and there is no fucking "knack". that was just something in a Dilbert cartoon.

not FLOWMATIC per se (4, Interesting)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 months ago | (#47031771)

Grace's big contribution from the time wasn't the particular FLOWMATIC language but rather she conceived of the compiler. And note her languages were intended to be legible even to non-programmers, what an usual concept eh?

Re:not FLOWMATIC per se (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031897)

Yes, regretted by programmers since, tasked with fixing the well-intentioned programs coded by non-programmers.

Re:not FLOWMATIC per se (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47033523)

Bah -- just remember who invented computer science: chemists, physicists and mathematicians!

Unlike Richard Stallman, it was WWII heros like Grace Hopper that helped make us 'free' to make software!

Thats right, computers were invented by 'squares' not by hippies and their 'information wants to be free' Gen X children ;)

Re:not FLOWMATIC per se (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47032003)

And note her languages were intended to be legible even to non-programmers, what an usual concept eh?

They would have to be since there were not any programmers to speak of at the time.

Re:not FLOWMATIC per se (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#47032893)

And note her languages were intended to be legible even to non-programmers, what an usual concept eh?

And that's how we ended up with COBOL.

Re:not FLOWMATIC per se (2)

narcc (412956) | about 4 months ago | (#47033349)

And that's how we ended up with COBOL.

Which has proven itself over and over again. It's stable, reliable, and easy to maintain. COBOL runs the world [baselinemag.com] , for good reasons.

Coined the term 'bug' (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about 4 months ago | (#47031949)

... after finding an actual bug in a computer. Imagine how different [suvi.org] things might have turned out.

Re:Coined the term 'bug' (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 months ago | (#47032205)

other critters have caused problems in electrical systems, we might be saying a snake or rat or spider.

in not entirely unrelated concept, we have the molly-guard thanks to the toddler Molly who pushed the big red button on an IBM 4341 at UIUC twice in a day.

Re:Coined the term 'bug' (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about 4 months ago | (#47032639)

Not to mention all the work she did for Kung Fu.

"When you snatch the pebble from my had you will be ready Grace Hopper."

Re:Coined the term 'bug' (1)

Coditor (2849497) | about 4 months ago | (#47033009)

The computer with a bug that was actually a fish is a new one to me. Imagine if debugging today was called fishing.

Re:Coined the term 'bug' (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47033075)

No she didn't.

The journal entry reads "first example of an actual bug", which clearly indicates that the term was already in use.

If you look in the OED, the first use of "bug" to mean a technical glitch of some sort dates from 1870-1899.

To be fair, Hopper never claimed to have originated the term.

Re:Coined the term 'bug' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47033127)

Finding pussy in a computer... you wish!

vacuum tube? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47031983)

had to look that up because I haven't heard of vacuum tube. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_tube

Vacuum tubes are big. What's with the glass? Reminds me of the old light bulbs that burn out and generate tons of heat.

Re:vacuum tube? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 months ago | (#47032239)

Never heard of klystrons and magnetrons and traveling wave tubes and vacuum flourescent displays? my god you are ignorant of current 21st electrical technology!

Re:vacuum tube? (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 4 months ago | (#47032391)

OK, this has almost got to be a troll (tipoff being "old light bulbs", that sounds like someone posing as a newb/idiot), but, WTF??

      The glass is to enclose the vacuum inside, hence the phrase "vacuum tube". Inside there are filaments just like a conventional light bulb. These usually heat a plate, which can then emit electrons via thermionic emission. This emission can be controlled by altering the voltages on the various parts. This permits many applications like amplification.

      Almost anything we do today could theoretically be done using tubes instead of transistors, given the necessary input power. There are still many applications that are better done this way than with transistors, particularly, high-power and high-frequency radio transmitters, where transistors can barely be made to work

Re:vacuum tube? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#47032973)

had to look that up because I haven't heard of vacuum tube.

It sort of resembles your head, only with a lot of electrodes inside.

K. S. Kyosuke gets called out & ran (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47033627)

From a fair challenge like a chickenshit blowhard who tosses names & runs http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

K. S. Kyosuke gets called out & ran (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47033637)

From a fair challenge like a chickenshit blowhard who tosses names & runs http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

May first computer was named 11 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47032031)

It was the 11 UNIVAC made

That's ADMIRAL Grace Hopper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47032063)

Get her title right, hippy, Grace Hopper was a WWII hero!

Re:That's ADMIRAL Grace Hopper (4, Informative)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 months ago | (#47032281)

no, Rear Admiral, Lower Half. But during WW II, her rank was Lieutenant, Junior Grade. She retired with rank of Commander in 1966. But then returned to service and was promoted to Captain in 1973, and by act of Congress Commodore in 1983. That rank had its name changed to the RA, LH in the 90s

Re:That's ADMIRAL Grace Hopper (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47033213)

Rear Admiral, Lower Half...

...Hind Quartermaster, First Hopper, Near Seamen, Can't miss it.

2.25 MHz, sort of (1)

sribe (304414) | about 4 months ago | (#47032149)

Yeah, but if you're wondering, it took about 1,000 clock cycles per instruction...

Re:2.25 MHz, sort of (2)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 months ago | (#47032397)

yeah they should have used red mercury instead of mercury in those delay line memory tubes!

Can't. Resist. Optimizing. (1)

Toad-san (64810) | about 4 months ago | (#47032543)

"(1) COMPARE PRODUCT-NO (A) WITH PRODUCT-NO (B) ; IF GREATER GO TO OPERATION 10 ;
IF EQUAL GO TO OPERATION 5 ; OTHERWISE GO TO OPERATION 2 .
(2) TRANSFER A TO D ."

What's wrong (if useless is wrong) with this code?

Godz, I can't believe I'm trying to correct Hopper's code!

Re:Can't. Resist. Optimizing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47033113)

I'd be willing to bet the "OTHERWISE" clause is required per the language spec.

It weighed 13 tons, had 5,200 vacuum tubes, and to (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 4 months ago | (#47032669)

It weighed 13 tons, had 5,200 vacuum tubes, and took up a whole garage

InB4 yo mamma.

The first programming language? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#47032957)

I didn't know Grace Hopper had anything to do with Plankalkul.

K. S. Kyosuke gets called out & ran (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47033603)

From a fair challenge like a chickenshit blowhard who tosses names & runs http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

K. S. Kyosuke gets called out & ran (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47033615)

From a fair challenge like a chickenshit blowhard who tosses names & runs http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

Good God, look at that code (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 4 months ago | (#47033367)

How can you fit that much spaghetti in 17 lines??

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