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100 Years of Grace Hopper

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the beautiful-jumping dept.

Programming 184

theodp writes "Grab your COBOL Coding Forms and head on over to comp.lang.cobol, kids! Yesterday was Grace Hopper's 100th birthday, and many are still singing the praises of her Common Business-Oriented Language."

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Women (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17174540)

It figures. One of the wordiest (is that a word?) programming languages was invented by a woman. Talk talk talk. :-)

I couldn't resist.

Re:Women (1)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175050)

Hmm.. I would have moderated this as funny.... Oh well...

Re:Women (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17176448)

She makes sure that men now hates period (dot) as well.

Re:Women (5, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17178406)

It figures. One of the wordiest (is that a word?) programming languages was invented by a woman. Talk talk talk. :-)

Men have Perl: a series of unintelligable grunts.
     

Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday to you! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17174542)

Even though you died in 1992, Happy Birthday to You!

GRACE HOPPER IS A CUM-BUCKET! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17174558)

And so is Nicole Brazzle! [nicolebrazzlexxx.com]
  • I'd love to unleash my man-juice all over those soft, supple titties!

Kids: Learn COBOL, stay employed (4, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174560)

Seriously. Learn some legacy skills, you'll need them to help your future employer maintain their legacy stuff or migrate it.

COBOL programmers are retiring fast, in 5-10 years expect a mini-boom for this skill set as those who didn't migrate before Y2K decide it's finally time.

Re:Kids: Learn COBOL, stay employed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17174706)

Cobol migration is dead - the market is only growing with inflation, if that, and there's serious worries about whether it's a viable business to continue.

Plus, the CNET article is a nice piece of promotional material for Micro Focus, who themselves said that COBOL was dead years ago, but refuse to innovate preferring instead to keep cycling through new management and hoping that people will start using COBOL as a language of choice once more. There's even COBOL.NET.

Misunderstanding (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17178082)

By migration I meant migrating FROM a COBOL-based system to something else.

Scenario 1:
company loses skills to retirement, THEN migrates.
Big headaches.

Scenario 2:
Company hires fresh people who know COBOL or trains them in-house. Builds up skills. THEN trains these people with skills for the "new paradigm" and has them do the migration. Fewer headaches.

Re:Kids: Learn COBOL, stay employed (1)

Xangis (263898) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174738)

With any luck, within 5-10 years developer tools will have evolved to the point where a reasonably skilled programmer can rewrite, test, debug, and release any application that was written in COBOL in half the time it would take to maintain it. We all know by now that writing code is far easier than maintaining it.

COBOL seriously needs to disappear. What ever happened to Darwinian evolution? Must not apply to computer languages...

... I'd rather write Pascal (UGH! So disgusting!)

Re:Kids: Learn COBOL, stay employed (4, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174840)

Nonsense! Cobol is machine independent and self-documenting, and it is still around because it is a very fit, if not the fittest, language for business purposes. Besides It would likely be far easier to pull together a COBOL compiler than to rewrite, test, debug, (document, don't forget document) and release any application that was written in COBOL.

Re:Kids: Learn COBOL, stay employed (3, Interesting)

mugnyte (203225) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175094)

...pull together a COBOL compiler...

  After working at a shop that wrote COBOL compilers for machine translation into C, I can tell you can it is interesting work, but by no means simple. What a lot of people misunderstand is that COBOL can react slightly differently under each IBM OS that was shipped. Writing a lexer/parser is easy, but the memory mapping and statement convolutions in COBOL were down-to-the-bit tricky.

  COBOL was a huge exercise in data massaging, where hundreds of lines were used to map data into a structure which then fed a series of output channels, like a printer, screenmaps or files. Throw in a simple set of arithmetic, but apply it in hacker-esque ways to date bits, for example, and you're scratching your head a lot of the time.

  I've read all the bashing here, but one must understand that COBOL's perspective of the world was far narrower than today's. Business data was a simple number-crunching exercise, not much further than the trajectory calculations of the earliest digital computers. I have some one of IBM's computer catalogs from 1971, a longwinded tome filled with secretary-models, low-level circuit specifications, and giant machines that would make a great B-movie these days.

Re:Kids: Learn COBOL, stay employed (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175944)

Well, COBOL has been around for a long time. It predates the personal computer. It predates 8-track tapes. It predates touch tone phones. It predates NASA's Apollo program. It predates Kennedy's presidency. It is not surprising that one or two butt-ugly hacks have made it into some programs.

Re:Kids: Learn COBOL, stay employed (1)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176536)

> Writing a lexer/parser is easy,

And even more so since there's a JavaCC grammar for COBOL [blogs.com] .

Re:Kids: Learn COBOL, stay employed (3, Insightful)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175964)

I helped to maintain COBOL software.

Yes, it works. And yes, it works because nobody dares to touch it. Besides, people who praise COBOL often forget that only a small fraction of COBOL code has survived. Most of the bad code has been replaced by code in another languages long ago.

There are far better tools now: Java/C# for business logic, BPEL for orchestration, rule engines, SQL stored procedures to work with large amounts of data, etc.

Re:Kids: Learn COBOL, stay employed (2, Insightful)

novus ordo (843883) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175054)

"The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offence."
-Edsger W.Dijkstra

(when you mentioned 5-10 I just couldn't resist :)

Learn novice: be one with the Tao (2, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176848)

From the Tao of Programming: http://www.canonical.org/~kragen/tao-of-programmin g.html [canonical.org]
Each language has its purpose, however humble. Each language expresses the Yin and Yang of software. Each language has its place within the Tao.

But do not program in COBOL if you can avoid it.

100 years? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17174562)

What does 1906 have to do COBOL or computing in general? Speakeasies weren't even popular yet.

COBL Coding Form slashdotted (2, Informative)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174574)

Try this [archive.org] instead.

The only way... (3, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174592)

The only way I could code my way out of a wet paper bag in COBOL would be if my life depended on it (and I had a few COBOL programming texts in the bag with me). All I remember about COBOL is that it is long winded... as per its alternate acronym expansion: Considered Obsolete Because Of Length.

Master Po (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17174594)

What do you hear?

I hear the Grace Hopper.

My name is Eric Hopper (2, Funny)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174656)

And while I'm sadly not related (or perhaps just not very closely related) to Grace Hopper, it's still neat that someone else with that somewhat unusual last name is in computing. :-)

I have a point system for what people think of when I mention my last name:

  • Dennis Hopper [wikipedia.org] : Not that I dislike Dennis Hopper or anything, but mentioning a famous contemporary actor is just too easy and makes me think the person is likely someone who gets way more from pop-culture than they should. -1 point
  • Edward Hopper [wikipedia.org] : Oooh, mildly obscure (as compared to, say, Leonarda da Vinci) painter who painted urban scenes from the 30s and 40s. Interesting. +1 point.
  • Grace Hopper [wikipedia.org] : Found the first recorded real bug in computing. Inventor of the concept of a high-level language, responsible for COBOL, first woman admiral in the Navy... Wow! +50 points
  • Hopper: The grasshopper from Bug's life. No point value, but it does earn a very strange look.

Re:My name is Eric Hopper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17174852)

In Soviet Russia, say Grace Hopper's name and people think of you (for 8 points.)

Re:My name is Eric Hopper (2, Funny)

PsyQo (1020321) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174866)

Yes dad, that's cool and all, but there are also loads of people making fun of our name.

Greetings,
- Hip

Re:My name is Eric Hopper (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175482)

*chuckle*

Re:My name is Eric Hopper (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175518)

And while I'm sadly not related (or perhaps just not very closely related) to Grace Hopper, it's still neat that someone else with that somewhat unusual last name is in computing.

There are 10742 "Hopper" entries in the white pages in the United States. You do not have an unusual last name-- it's just not common like Johnson or Smith. It ranks 827th out of over 88,000 names in the US, more common than Stein, Fitzpatrick, and Nielsen. My last name shows 314 matches, and I know a dozen of them as relatives. I don't even show up in most name databases. I have an unusual last name.

Re:My name is Eric Hopper (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175828)

I think unusual, uncommon and rare are part of a rather ill-defined spectrum. I would call your last name rare, not unusual.

Re:My name is Eric Hopper (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175544)

The parent was moderated as flamebait? Why?! *looks confused*

Re:My name is Eric Hopper (1)

pondenome (249639) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175552)

When someone mentions the name "Hopper", the first image that pops into my mind is Paul Drake, from the original Perry Mason TV series. http://www.fiftiesweb.com/tv/perry-mason.htm [fiftiesweb.com]
William Hopper, of course, was famous for much more than just that role. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hopper [wikipedia.org]
My favorite movie of his is "The Deadly Mantis". http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050294/ [imdb.com]
Mantis, grasshopper, nyuk nyuk nyuk!

Re:My name is Eric Hopper (1)

Mattintosh (758112) | more than 7 years ago | (#17178136)

What I think of is a spout-on-stilts used to fill a truck or train car with granulated substances such as coal, grain, or sand.

More than COBOL, she coined the term Bug (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17174662)

She not only debugged the problem but documented the bug in her notebook.

Look at the bottom of this page. [navy.mil]

Re:More than COBOL, she coined the term Bug (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176738)

"First actual case of bug being found"
This shows that they did not coin the term, as they would not say that this was the first actual but, it would have simply stated they found an error caused by a bug.

Transcending the Matrix (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174722)

Someday we'll look back at the rigid grid of orthogonal rows/columns of database tables with the same pity with which we look back the character grids in which we coded COBOL programs.

Practically all of COBOL was replaced by the printf() command. Which is still the ultimate target for most programs written today, even if the printf() is wrapped in some higher level output function. I'm looking forward to all of all database and relations someday residing in a single invocation with a comprehensive, yet simple interface. Probably a flowchart.

Re:Transcending the Matrix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17174822)

This interface already exists. The orchestration designer in BizTalk [microsoft.com] is exactly what you're talking about, and more besides. It's brilliant.

Re:Transcending the Matrix (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175172)

Does the code it generates actually work? Efficiencies compared to competent human programmers? Can the generated code be targeted by the universe of existing lexical code tools? And the product pulled back into the BizTalk interface?

Re:Transcending the Matrix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17178340)

1) Yes, I've written multi-million dollar production applications with it since 2004. Never needing to edit any code it produces.
2) Better than or as good as anything likely to be used or found. You might have a faster system if you write in assembly - but it would take 1000 times longer to programme in the first place!
3&4) I'm sorry but I'm not sure what you mean by this - I think I've lost some of your meaning in the translation? - My apologies. HTH.

Re:Transcending the Matrix (1)

hauntingthunder (985246) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174956)


You dont realy understand how high level launages work do you? The forms mirror the cards fed into the punchcard reader.

Re:Transcending the Matrix (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175276)

You don't really understand how high level languages work (even when they're spellchecked). The COBOL forms still mirror the punchcards, even though there are no punchcards anymore.

I learned COBOL a quarter century ago, when there were still punchcards (mainly punched tape, but still plenty of cards). printf() mirrors the punchcards. And C++ and Perl, for example, are highlevel languages that still use the grid.

A truly highlevel language would present APIs independent of the underlying HW artifacts. Not just present a portable union of many common HW artifacts.

I've written highlevel (and lowlevel) languages. I've programmed assembly code, even in hex machine language (handcompiled on graph paper), starting in the 1970s. All the way up to 4GL IVR menuing. And plenty of - way too much - COBOL. COBOL looks archaic, though we don't notice its legacy in printf(). I'm looking forward to the same convenient nostalgia for databases down the road, because lots of DB programming and DBA reminds me of the slavery to the machine that COBOL required.

If you want to be stuck in the 1970s, you're welcome to it. Give my regards to the 8-track cassette of The Wiz.

Re:Transcending the Matrix (1)

dctoastman (995251) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176044)

even in hex machine language

Every time I hear someone say this, I feel free to question their validity. You can't program in "hex machine language", as hexadecimal is a convention to make the jump from decimal to binary easier.

Re:Transcending the Matrix (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176570)

Yes you can. On the Apple ][, "call -151" entered the machine language monitor. From which I could enter hex digits directly into RAM, then JMP to the program.

You can question the validity, or even masochism. But it worked, and was like weight training to build skill in really programming, or just "quick" tests of short executables.

Re:Transcending the Matrix (1)

Spiked_Three (626260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175110)

Yes to your first comment, no to your second. I dont see how in the world printf could even touch COBOL.

There are aspects of COBOL that are still not available in present day lnguages.

A super simple example is COBOLs ability to perform a pre-process, sort HUGE amounts of data, and then perform a post-process. Now, granted that was how things worked back then and is not done that way today. Today we just split it up into 2 programs and do some kind of sort in the middle, but the point is that COBOL had some real business programming assistance built into it, that current language don't.

Examine x replacing y with z - is there a current equiv without 2 or more steps?

There are more - I used to know (use) them all :P COBOL was great in its time. It was my second learnt language in what has been a long computer programming career (Fortran first, 370 Assembler third).

Re:Transcending the Matrix (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175352)

OK, COBOL was more than printf(). For example, conditionals/branches/loops. Perl is like printf++. And does what you like with pre/postprocessing, like with the s/// function. I love Perl.

I learned BASIC, then 6502 Assembly, then Pascal to get on the timeshare, then DCL, then forth, then COBOL to stay on the timeshare, then a dozen others (including CORAL, PL/I, x86 Assembly), then C, then C++, then Perl, then a dozen others (including Java and SQL).

I wish I could do it all with a flowchart. Someday I will. And all that machinebound programming will look like COBOL.

Re:Transcending the Matrix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17175594)

Examine x replacing y with z - is there a current equiv without 2 or more steps?

$x =~ s/y/z/g;

Re:Transcending the Matrix (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175768)

Large grids of related data is natural when you are collecting large amounts of related data, not rigid. Spreadsheet+data=disaster. That people have different ideas about 'related' means is an implementation issue.

Re:Transcending the Matrix (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176634)

No, that's just because you're used to a grid. There's nothing "natural" about a grid of related data. Even a spreadsheet is a grid, so you're clearly unable to see beyond the grid metaphor. People don't use grids most of the time we're working with related data, except with digital computers. We usually use geometric metaphors, especially topological ones, though in natural world terms.

The different ideas people have about "related" is entirely a design paradigm issue. The variety of familiar, productive paradigms we could use is reduced to a grid that only experts can use. That constraint won't last.

Re:Transcending the Matrix (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17178364)

Someday we'll look back at the rigid grid of orthogonal rows/columns of database tables with the same pity with which we look back the character grids in which we coded COBOL programs.

Tables are a good thing. The same info put into programming code is harder to study and read. As far as "fixed witdth" columns, I think future RDBMS will have dynamic typing and dynamic columns, perhaps with even new columns being added on the fly, as if each row is its own dictionary/map structure.

This does not violate the relational model in any way that i've found. On-thy-fly column additions are just virtual tuples. And they could be made "solid" by settings if one wants. Thus, during prototyping phase new columns are allowed, but locked down by the DBA after production is up and going.

The current batch of RDBMS are not perfect, but that does not mean we should throw out the baby with the bath water. We can fix and improve the bath water.

Article is misleading (1)

Ignorant Aardvark (632408) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174732)

The article writeup says today is Grace Hopper's 100th birthday. What it neglects to tell you is that Grace Hopper died in 1992. So yes, today is the 100th anniversary of her birth, but I don't think many would consider it a 100th birthday.

Dirty Rotters! (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175006)

Why those dirty rotters! Here I am thinking that Ms Hopper had lived to the ripe old age of 100, marvelling at the changes she would have seen, not only in the computing world, but in the world in general, only to find out that she died ages ago.

Perfect Example (1)

MECC (8478) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174806)

Of how something utterly deficient by design can just put the word 'business' in its name, and get phb's to chase it like fish after a dead worm. If someplace is in a crisis because it has to migrate its critical legacy COBOL application and can't find anyone to do it, well that's just too bad. Chalk another one up to darwin....

Re:Perfect Example (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174986)

These same phbs went after Visual Basic next. hmm

Re:Perfect Example (0, Flamebait)

smcdow (114828) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175034)

If someplace is in a crisis because it has to migrate its critical legacy COBOL application and can't find anyone to do it, well that's just too bad. Chalk another one up to darwin....

s/COBOL/Java/, fast forward 20 years, and the same crises will happen again.

It is very tough to find good COBOL people now... (5, Interesting)

Panaqqa (927615) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174814)

The university I went to stopped teaching it about 20 years ago, and most programmers of COBOL with much in the way of practical real world development experience retired long ago. In fact, a lot of them came out of retirement for a few months or a year prior to Y2K because the money offered was so good.

Today, there are still COBOL jobs advertised, and they largely go unfilled. It could have something to do with the fact that there are so few people remaining with the skills, and something to do with the fact that many of them are with banks who are notoriously cheap on IT salaries. The few remaining good COBOL people on the market go into contract positions that usually begin at about $70/hour. I kid you not.

It's a lot of typing, writing COBOL, and the code is at times boringly simple, but if someone is out of work and seriously looking for an IT position, learning it would not hurt. I predict there will still be some call for it 20 years from now.

Re:It is very tough to find good COBOL people now. (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174958)

My alma mater is still teaching a three-hour course. I hear they get headhunters from all over looking for people who know that language. http://www.pittstate.edu/ [pittstate.edu]

IMO the language sucks massively and I felt dirty the first time I looked at code, but the prof (Dr. Cummings) makes it bearable (and that's a high compliment considering my opinion of the lang); I like her besides.

COBOL will never Die (1)

GarstMan (1010537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176396)

I work for a company that makes big yellow tractors and we are still creating programs in COBOL. In fact one of the main programs I wrote is being re-written. It was originally written in Java and now the powers that be are re-writing this program into AS400 COBOL. So never say COBOL is dying/dead because there are still very powerful companies that are creating new programs using this language

Re:COBOL will never Die (1)

COBOL/MVS (196516) | more than 7 years ago | (#17177636)

I used to work for that same company. You can see a lot of my code in the General Ledger System. Provided that system still exists, it's how said company closes its books. Also showing that COBOL is still depended on for mission-critical applications and will be in the foreseeable future.

Re:It is very tough to find good COBOL people now. (1)

mustafap (452510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176726)

>In fact, a lot of them came out of retirement for a few months or a year prior to Y2K because the money offered was so good.

That sounds liek the script to "Armageddon". I wonder if Bruce Willis is free.

right idea, but outdated implementation (2, Interesting)

idlake (850372) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174818)

Designing a language that is simple to use and results in easy to read and easy-to-understand code is the right idea. For a first attempt, COBOL wasn't bad. But from a modern perspective, it has lots of problems. Also, COBOL (like Ada) incorrectly assumes that writing more text makes code clearer; it does not.

The best designed language overall is probably still Smalltalk: it's easy to read, easy to learn, and was designed from the ground up with the idea of being used in an interactive programming environment. It also strikes a better balance between verbosity and expressiveness. Just about the only thing that Smalltalk got wrong was to use strict left-to-right evaluation for arithmetic expressions; a better compromise might have been simply to require arithmetic expressions to be fully parenthesized.

Re:right idea, but outdated implementation (1)

Decaff (42676) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174856)

Just about the only thing that Smalltalk got wrong was to use strict left-to-right evaluation for arithmetic expressions; a better compromise might have been simply to require arithmetic expressions to be fully parenthesized.

That is because Smalltalk doesn't have arithmetic expressions - it only has sending messages to objects:

2 + 3

is sending the message '+' to the object '2' with the argument '3'.

Introducing the idea of actual arithmetic expressions into Smalltalk would make it far more complicated.

right idea, but outdated implementation-Fanboys. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17174930)

"The best designed language overall is probably still Smalltalk: it's easy to read, easy to learn, and was designed from the ground up with the idea of being used in an interactive programming environment."

Easy to learn? OK, you have five minutes. Teach me!

Re:right idea, but outdated implementation (1)

GerryHattrick (1037764) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176742)

It was great at the time - the punch card department was fully unionised, and only the supervisor could do the plugboards. Then came assembler, which was *hard*. COBOL was a revelation - agree the flowchart with the user in the morning, handpunch your own program cards and test pack during the afternoon, and run the test (slow tapes) in an overnight batch. Nearly self-documenting - until some nark introduced non-verbal variable-names. The only equivalent revelation I've had in my closing years has been UML with free 'JUDE' (Community) from Japan, but I'll never get my failing neurones round object orientation at this stage. http://jude.change-vision.com/jude-web/index.html [change-vision.com]

Re:right idea, but outdated implementation (1)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | more than 7 years ago | (#17177136)

The most important thing about COBOL was the "BO" part - Business Orientated.

Most languages are more general than COBOL. COBOL was, with it's myriad of sections, designed for business and in particular data processing. It's deliberately structured around that.

Re:right idea, but outdated implementation (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17178474)

The best designed language overall is probably still Smalltalk: it's easy to read, easy to learn, and was designed from the ground up with the idea of being used in an interactive programming environment...

Language preference is a subjective thing. Nobody can prove that language X is objectively better than language Y. People think differently, their eyes work differently, etc. You cannot assume that what you like will gel with others also.
     

"amazing grace" indeed (4, Insightful)

deitrahs (449087) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174842)

one of the few things i have on my "i love me wall" is one of her nanoseconds, framed with a letter from the admiral to my mother (whom she was trying to encourage into a career in computer science). now that i have a daughter of my own, who is already quite geeky herself, i counterbalance the pop culture effect with stories about women like grace hopper.

more girls - and hell, more boys for that matter - need to learn about people like her.

Re:"amazing grace" indeed (2, Interesting)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176828)

I think I am the only who ever publicly addressed Admiral Hopper as Admiral Grace. It was 1981, she was speaking at North Island Naval Air Station. She made a comment about how desktop computers would be more powerful than the current 1980's IBM 360 Mainframe computers, (this WAS the big dog in those days for mortals like myself). After the presentation, I had the chance to ask her why she thought mainframes would be on desktops, her reply was, "Because of the variety of computers being developed today are mainly microcomputers; And that the mini computers of today were the mainframes of yesterday." I was so nervous, I replied, "Thank you Admiral Grace", and left immediately. The implications of her words startled me, I understood her implications, I was changed, forever. 25+ years later, I look back and remember the nervousness, the times, the bosses who warned on switching to micros, and what the future would be. Her words, would guide my life for the next 25+ years.

Thank you, Admiral Grace.

Ahhhhhh yess... (2, Funny)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174868)

the art of COBOL, and what an art it is. I am sorry no young grasshoppers have taken up this valuable language.

Re:Ahhhhhh yess... (1)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174990)

As my professor used to say:

"I love the smell of COBOL in the morning"!

My first computer related job. (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174938)

My first computer related job out of school was to create and teach a first year COBOL course. I remember it well Identification, Data, Environment and Proceedure divisions.

COBOL, LISP, FORTRAN (3, Interesting)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174968)

Be sure to pay homage to the inventors of the other two ur-languages; Alan Backus, and John McCarthy. Without them, we'd still be programming in assembler, and there probably would be only a world-wide market for 5 computers.

Re:COBOL, LISP, FORTRAN (1)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174992)

*sigh* John Backus. Apparently my theoreticians and programmers got crossed this morning.

Re:COBOL, LISP, FORTRAN (2, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17177300)

Be sure to pay homage to the inventors of the other two ur-languages; Alan Backus, and John McCarthy. Without them, we'd still be programming in assembler, and there probably would be only a world-wide market for 5 computers.

First of all, it's John W. Backus not Alan Backus. On the timeline here, the "5 computers" prediction was made by an IBM chairman in 1943. Even long before there was computer languages as such (Fortran 1957, Lisp 1958, COBOL 1959), there was orders of magnitude more than 5 computers. Nor did assembler die with rise of computer languages, it went on for decades and games like Transport Tycoon (1994) and Rollercoaster Tycoon (1999) were written pretty much entirely in assembler though I assume the macros must have started to look like a language of their own. So while all credit where credit is due, giving them the credit for there being more than 5 computers is way too much.

Want to live forever? (1)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174978)

Learn Cobol! It's the only way to live forever.

You see, in the future mankind will have the ability to revive deceased people. That's why so many of those future-nuts have their bodies frozen: they think they'll be revived. But why would the people in the future do that? It's bound to be expensive, and it's not as if there will ever be a people shortage.

That's why you should learn Cobol. To be irreplaceable not just now, but also in the year 9999. And in the year 99999. And in 999999...

Learn Cobol, for job security forever!

Flashback (1)

daivdg (930179) | more than 7 years ago | (#17174994)

I have just undergone a Vietnam-style flashback to 1992 and the HB14 suite. Damn that vile language....

Snatch the pebbles from my hand, Grace Hopper (1)

mrjb (547783) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175024)

... Time for you to leave.

That's ADMIRAL Grace Hopper to you... (2, Interesting)

BenboX (194360) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175088)

Grace Hopper is ranked Rear Admiral Grace Hopper in the US Navy; the guided missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) is named after her.

http://www.hopper.navy.mil/Page.htm [navy.mil]

Ben

COBOL = (2, Funny)

larien (5608) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175130)

Completely Obsolete Business Oriented Language...

That said, I work in a company which still runs a lot of COBOL code - a bank, funnily enough. I think banks are about the only people still using code written in the 70s *sigh*

Re:COBOL = (1)

jbolden (176878) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175334)

Outside of banks, insurance companies.... how many companies were doing large scale computerized accounting in the 1970s?

Re:COBOL = (2)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176036)

>I think banks are about the only people still using code
>written in the 70s *sigh*

        Not at all. Many serious users are still using code written in the late 50 and 60's. It's very common in the aerospace industry. Physics and mathematics hasn't changed since then, and some of of the code I see is FAR BETTER (clear, readable, and rigorously accurate) than most C++. We even have the original card decks for some of our stuff (although its been saved in files at this point). Our stuff isn't COBOL, of course, FORTRAN. Yes, *some* of it is God-awful to read, but it's *right* and there's no reason to take the time and expense to make it "better".

          Brett

Re:COBOL = (1)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | more than 7 years ago | (#17177160)

That should tell you something.

It does a pretty good job for data processing.

Re:COBOL = (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17177250)

That said, I work in a company which still runs a lot of COBOL code - a bank, funnily enough. I think banks are about the only people still using code written in the 70s *sigh*


The system that processes Medi-Cal (California's version of Medicaid) claims is also COBOL (though a lot of non-COBOL stuff handles the data before and after in many cases). Actually, lots of systems are COBOL. If you've got a stable, complex, mission-critical system that works well-enough, gutting it and reimplementing it from scratch in a new language is often an unnecessary and unjustifiable risk and expense until you get a massive change in requirements that forces you to do enough changes that its less expensive/risky to reimplement from the ground up.

It's easier to ask forgiveness... (3, Informative)

ishmalius (153450) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175230)

"It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission."

Didn't know that she said that.

I have been quoting this for years. This is precisely the way to deal with any bureaucracy. Asking for permission is the most ridiculous thing to do when wanting to get something done. You are condemning yourself to days and weeks of memos, email, meetings, and PowerPoint charts. Better to just do it and get it done. Cut that Gordian knot. What a useful method of dealing with middle management.

I just didn't know that she was the one who said it first.

Re:It's easier to ask forgiveness... (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175560)

I've also heard that she was the one who said something like "The worst thing a business can say is ... because that's the way we've always done it.". This especially funny from her if it's true, as COBOL shops are notorious for exactly that kind of mindset. I'm fairly sure she wouldn't be impressed.

Raise a glass and party for Grace Hopper (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17175324)

I have been told by those who knew her in the 40's and 50's that she knew how to party hard and had a guy in every harbor...true party animal of the old school.

Admiral Nanosecond (3, Interesting)

conradp (154683) | more than 7 years ago | (#17175792)

Back in high school I attended a talk by Admiral Hopper where she passed around a wire about 30 centimeters long and explained to us "this is how far light, or any electromagnetic signal, can travel in one nanosecond." That illustration has always stayed with me, it helps to explain a lot of the limitations inherent in hardware now that CPU speeds have become so fast.

For example, for a 3GHz CPU (.33 nanoseconds per clock cycle), electricity can only travel 10cm in one clock cycle. It's amazing that CPUs can do complex arithmetic when electrical signals inside the chip can only travel 10cm in that amount of time. Wonder why the CPU stalls when there's an access to main memory? Just look at your motherboard and gauge how far your memory is from the CPU, distance alone explains 4-5 clock cycles of the total delay.

Re:Admiral Nanosecond (1)

zenyu (248067) | more than 7 years ago | (#17177220)

Back in high school I attended a talk by Admiral Hopper where she passed around a wire about 30 centimeters long and explained to us "this is how far light, or any electromagnetic signal, can travel in one nanosecond." That illustration has always stayed with me, it helps to explain a lot of the limitations inherent in hardware now that CPU speeds have become so fast.


Through a vacum!

When traveling through a media like copper or silicon you can only reach about 2/3 of that speed.

Although I guess the point is the same. Light travels much more slowly than you might assume after watching all those hyperbolic PBS specials on Einstein. :)

a COBOL joke (2)

syrinx (106469) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176052)

One of my CS professors in college said, "Did you hear they're making an object-oriented version of COBOL? It's going to be called 'ADD 1 TO COBOL'"

ba-dum-bum.

Seriously though, Admiral Hopper did a lot to advance computing in the early days, even if COBOL may seem like a step backwards to us now. :) There's a park [wikipedia.org] named for her somewhat near to where I live... I haven't gotten a chance to go check it out yet, but I'd definitely like to.

YOU FAIL IT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17176168)

AROUND RETURN IT 1. Therefore it's Theo de Raadt, one to its laid-3ack W00T one Here but now DIM. IF *BSD IS And abroad for up today! If you Exactly what you've luck I'll find

Did ERP systems replace COBOL? (1)

crucini (98210) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176198)

COBOL provided a way to write business apps from scratch. But increasingly business runs on commercial, packaged software (ERP) that is customized or configured to the specific business. For example, SAP and Oracle Applications.

I think the companies that computerized early are more likely to be using home-grown software, probably written in COBOL. That is, companies like airlines, banks and power utilities.

Buying an ERP system and customizing it provides much higher leverage than writing the app from scratch in COBOL. This is because businesses have a lot in common.

The ERP systems have their own programming languages. SAP has ABAP [wikipedia.org] , which is somewhat similar to COBOL. I think Oracle Applications customization can be done with PL/SQL (Oracle Forms runs it). Peoplesoft has Peopletools - though I can't tell if it's a language, an IDE, or both.
This is the dark side of the moon; off the radar of academics and hackers. While the web is full of programmers discussing C, Perl, Java, etc. the business programmers seem to have less desire for public discussion.

So my guess is that COBOL was not replaced by C, Perl, etc. but by ABAP, PL/SQL, etc. I'd appreciate any knowledgeable comments, as this is a fascinating area.

Just COBOL? (1)

vga_init (589198) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176238)

As far as I know, Grace is responsible for a lot of things beside COBOL, but one thing that stands out in my mind is that I was told during a university course that she wrote the first assembler. I'm not really sure about it, though; the wikipedia article doesn't seem to mention assembly language.

Admiral Hopper (1)

bwy (726112) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176244)

Let us also not forget that Admiral Hopper has a ship in the U.S. Navy named after her- the U.S.S. Hopper. It is an Aegis destroyer that is part of the Pacific fleet.

Thus spake the Master of the Tao... (1)

simasg (857075) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176866)

"The Tao gave birth to machine language. Machine language gave birth to the assembler. The assembler gave birth to the compiler. Now there are ten thousand languages. Each language has its purpose, however humble. Each language expresses the Yin and Yang of software. Each language has its place within the Tao. But do not program in COBOL if you can avoid it." Geoffrey James "The Tao Of Programming"

There is no shortage of COBOL programmers (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 7 years ago | (#17176966)

It's just that they write the functional equivalent of COBOL in VB, Java, C# ... etc.

I'm joking, but I'm not. I find that most programmers use this style of programming, sometimes throwing in a little inhieretence to make things look OO, until they get at least 5+ years under their belt. And sometimes not even then. Maybe if we required training Lisp or other such wierd programming language would they see the limitations of thier approaches and the flexibility, if they took advantage of it, of generics, templates, delegates, functors, closures, reflection and other nifty 'new' (except that much of it is actually 20 or more years old) things that are being built into our current production languages.

Not just banks (1)

Mycroft_514 (701676) | more than 7 years ago | (#17177044)

Most insurance, and transportation companies still use COBOl, as well as communications companies. (General Electric, AT&T, SPRINT, Disney, FedEx, Prudential, Aetna - just to name a few).

The way I look at it, COBOL will still be around when I retire and that isn't for some time yet.

And for those of you talking up all the other languages. Look to installed code value. Las tfigures I have are a bit old and dated, but still. In the early 90's some manager where I was at was crowing about 6$ billion in "C" code around. At the time there was 6$ Trillion (with a "T") of COBOL around. I doubt that COBOL has decreased all that much, but where is "C" today?

You guys are just biased.

Admiral Hopper (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 7 years ago | (#17177066)

Several posters have mentioned her rank. However, I think no has mentioned the fact she was the *first* female to achieve that rank in the US Navy and possibly the world. Considering the time and place in which she achieved this, she was probably both very smart and very tough.

Re:Admiral Hopper (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17177702)

Several posters have mentioned her rank. However, I think no has mentioned the fact she was the *first* female to achieve that rank in the US Navy and possibly the world.


She wasn't. She was made a commodore in 1983 and a rear admiral in 1985. The first female rear admiral in the US Navy was Alene B. Duerk in 1972, and the first female line officer to reach the rank of rear admiral in the US Navy was Fran McKee in 1976.

Met her 20 or so years ago - remember it well (3, Interesting)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 7 years ago | (#17177434)

When I was a sophomore in high school our school dedicated its computer lab to her. Her family had a summer place near where I went to school, and she came to the school for the dedication. As one of the geekiest computer people in the school I was chosen as the token pupil to be with her when pictures were taken, etc. I think she was 80 years old when that happened, and she was still sharp as a tack. Her official title at the time was Commodore, and I remember referring to her that way. I also recall her making some comments about programming, etc. that I think helped push me into a career of computer programming before I even realized it. I really wish I had known more about her at the time I met her since I probably would have paid a lot more attention...

COBOL - undead resting place for business logic (1)

alispguru (72689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17178054)

Cobol is also largely self-documenting, another factor that helped projects live on longer than the careers of their instigators. Companies could start planning IT strategies that weren't tied to the lifetime of one product, or the wishes of one hardware manufacturer.

That's funny - I've always heard the opposite about COBOL. In 1994, I was hired as a free-lancer by a big company that makes copiers. Their sales force had a problem - their system for pricing big copier installations was a mainframe-based nightmare first written in the early 70's and gradually mutated to the point where their sales force couldn't use it without taking a two month course. Their IT people were barely able to keep its pricing tables in sync with reality, much less reliably track purchasing patterns or add incentive pricing logic. The guy who hired me characterized the situation like this:

When they computerized the sales system, they essentially took their business practices of the 1970's and poured cement over them.
Our project was not to replace the sales tool, but to put a 1994-modern GUI over it using screen scraping to hide the mainframe green screens, and Common Lisp to change the presentation and bury some of the complexity. It was a very small effort, and the four of us ran out of money after delivering a partial prototype, but it shows how paralyzing the sheer dead weight of a large COBOL system can be, "largely self-documenting" or not.

She did NOT create COBOL (3, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17178266)

COBOL was heavily influenced by Grace's languages, but COBOL itself was designed by a small committee.
     

Grace Online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17178376)

Grace Hopper brought us oh so much and she was a great speaker too. It's a damn shame so little is online. Here's two items. Who's got more? C'mon folks, let's get a link thread going.

http://tennessee.cc.vt.edu/~hopl/hopper.html [vt.edu]
http://rocky.dlib.vt.edu/~cs4624/spring_2001/histo ry_of_prog_lang/hopper.html [vt.edu]

the moth (1)

technicalandsocial (940581) | more than 7 years ago | (#17178508)

Forgot COBOL, every time you "debug" something it is a remembrance of the day she pulled that moth out. That was the creation of the term computer "bug".
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