Sunday, July 31, 2011

‘Amazing Grace’ Hopper’s 2011 Milestones

Review by Bill Doughty
If she didn’t invent the computer revolution in the United States, Rear Adm. Grace Murray Hopper gave it a voice – and a language in which to communicate.

“Amazing Grace” Hopper (1906-1992) played a pivotal role in developing COBOL (COmmon Business-Oriented Language) and creating FLOW-MATIC (the first data processing language to use English).
She promoted computer standardization for the Navy with the Air Force and eventually throughout DoD. A lifelong inventor who preached common sense, she considered herself a discoverer rather than an inventor, according to Kathleen Broome Williams, author of Grace Hopper – Admiral of the Cyber Sea, recommended by the Navy Professional Reading Program.
Always unconventional in her thinking, Hopper scorned the customary and traditional, was impatient with the status quo, and approached problem solving with instinctive innovation.
In 2011, and especially in August, there are some significant Grace Hopper milestones to remember:

Eighty years ago, 1931, Hopper began teaching at Vassar College.
Seventy years ago, 1941, she earned a faculty fellowship at Vassar. On Dec. 7, 1941, there were no women serving as commissioned officers in the Navy, but Hopper wanted to join the war effort. She became one of the early WAVES – Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service – during WWII and began working at Harvard on the Mark I computer (which was formally dedicated Aug. 7, 1944). 
At the time, the few computers that existed in the world were the size of a room and were known as “computing machines.” The term “computer” was used for the women who operated the machines, entering data to generate calculations, according to Williams.
Sixty-five years ago, 1946, Hopper was promoted to lieutenant, recognized for her computer programming skills.
Sixty years ago, 1951, she began working on the world’s first compiler, completing it the following year. A compiler is a program or set of programs that transforms complex source code into a simpler code. Hopper’s invention or “discovery” was a fundamental contribution to the evolution of computing.
Grace Hopper helped develop COBOL.
In Grace Hopper – Admiral of the Cyber Sea, Williams takes us through “Amazing Grace’s” career. The author shows us that the biggest challenge Hopper faced was an established bureaucracy’s resistance to change, but many leaders in the Navy began to fully embrace the potential of computing between 1950 and 1960. In the 50s Hopper and her team developed some of the world’s first compiler-based languages for programming: ARITH-MATIC, MATH-MATIC and FLOW-MATIC; by the end of the decade she was playing a key leadership role in developing COBOL.
Fifty years ago, in August 1961, Hopper was promoted and appointed director of research in systems and programming for the Remington Road division of Sperry Rand.
Forty-five years ago, 1966, as Hopper was about to turn 60, then-Cmdr. Hopper received a letter from the Chief of Naval Personnel, asking her to apply for a resignation from the Navy due to her age and length of service. When she then retired, Hopper called it, “the saddest day of my life.”
But, on August 1, 1967, the Navy recalled her from the Reserves to active duty. The computer age was accelerating.
Thirty-five years ago, August 1976
Hopper, who wrote curriculum for the Navy’s “A” and “C” schools (basic and advanced training) and set up an operational analysis division for the Bureau of Naval Personnel, was now a recognized leader in computer science and the information technology revolution.
Forty years ago, in August 1971, 12,000 copies of Hopper’s manual, Fundamentals of COBOL, had been sold – 25 years after she’d worked on the Mark I.
Williams describes Hopper’s principal role working with the Air Force, Secretary of Defense and Government Services Administration to standardize computer language throughout federal agencies.
On August 2, 1973 Hopper was promoted to Captain.
She continued to be a teacher, mentor and recruiter for the Navy in the 70s and early-mid 80s.  Then, 25 years ago, on Aug. 14, 1986, Grace Hopper retired a second time, at the rank of Rear Admiral. Her retirement was held aboard USS Constitution in Boston Harbor. She was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.
Twenty years ago, on Sept. 16, 1991, Grace Hopper was awarded the National Medal of Technology, the highest honor of its type in the United States. (Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are other recipients of the medal, now known as the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.)  Williams reports what President George H. W. Bush said at the time, that it was Hopper who “pioneered the revolution that put personal computers on the desks of millions of Americans – and dragged even this president into the computer age.”
The voice of Navy’s computer revolution was silenced when Hopper passed away on New Year’s Day in 1992.
Fifteen years ago, during the summer of 1996, Sailors – men and women – began reporting aboard a new guided-missile destroyer bearing Hopper’s name. USS Hopper (DDG 70), “Amazing Grace,” was commissioned Sept. 6, 1997. The Arleigh Burke class destroyer,  homeported at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hi, is equipped with state-of-the-art computerized systems.
Author Williams achieves both a history of the development of computing in the Navy and a look at the professional milestones of this dynamic woman whose voice continues to echo decades later.
On July 30, 2009 USS Hopper (DDG 70) launches a standard missile (SM) 3 Blk IA, successfully intercepting a sub-scale short range ballistic missile, launched from the Kauai Test Facility, Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), Barking Sands, Kauai. (U.S. Navy photo)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Taking Nothing for Granted

by Bill Doughty
Grace Hopper -- a woman who literally gave voice to the computer revolution and the information age -- retired in 1986 as a Navy rear admiral at the age of 79.
Reading about Hopper’s struggles and achievements is rewarding in two ways...
  • It can be easy to take our laptops, iPads and smart phones for granted. From paper tape feeds to floppy disks to wireless digital computing, we’ve come so far in our ability to connect and communicate.
  • As recently as during Hopper’s lifetime -- less than one hundred years ago -- women achieved the right to vote in 1920.  Today, free nations cannot take the rights of women for granted.
My next blogpost will focus more on “Amazing Grace,” a visionary thinker who contributed so much to the information age and who, thanks to her family’s influence, valued reading, math and science.
According to Kathleen Broome Williams, author of Grace Hopper, Admiral of the Cyber Sea, “Surrounded by books in their home... Grace was raised in a family where intellectual curiosity was encouraged and acumen rewarded."
More next week...

Thirty-five years ago, August 1976, Capt. Grace M. Hopper, USNR, Head of the Navy Programming Language Section of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OP 911F), works at her Desk. Official U.S. Navy photograph, by PH2 David C. MacLean. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sun-Tzu and the Art of Football

by Bill Doughty
Imagine how unthinkable it would be in World War II... that someday the United States would be playing a World Cup soccer final against former enemy Japan... in a stadium in Germany!
It’s proof that the world can coexist when the values of freedom, democracy and a commitment to peace are fully embraced.
Such a peaceful ideal was completely unthinkable to most people in China more than 2,200 years ago during the Warring States period.  That’s when “Master Sun,” Sun-Tzu, wrote his classic, The Art of Warfare, one of the key works on the Navy Professional Reading Program reading list.  Sun-Tzu’s insights about discipline, organization, planning and contingencies apply equally to military, business and sports, including football/soccer.  His tactics about terrain, troop deployment and the art of surprise still apply in modern military strategic thinking.
Ed Halter’s intriguingly titled From Sun-Tzu to Xbox discusses the art of war from an electronic video game perspective, showing how strategy and tactics literally play out.
To read Sun-Tzu’s The Art of Warfare is to attempt to think from a different non-Western perspective -- not only Chinese, but also classical Chinese.  It’s best if the reader tries to understand the concept of Yin-Yang balance and harmony, a world view less linear and more contextual.  It requires open-minded reasoning and empathy.
New discoveries in the 1970s of texts written on bamboo slats removed from tombs expanded Sun-Tzu’s known works.
Various translations of The Art of Warfare are available, so the first question my librarian asked when I told her what I was reading was, “which translation?”  I found Roger T. Ames's work, which included a lot of history and commentary, to be profound and thought-provoking.
Here’s what Sun-Tzu says about leadership:
The traits of the true commander are: wisdom, humanity, respect, integrity, courage, and dignity.  With his wisdom he humbles the enemy, with his humanity he draws the people near to him, with his respect he recruits men of talent and character, with his integrity he makes good on his rewards, with his courage he raises the morale of his men, and with his dignity he unifies his command.
These ideals for coaches or world leaders are alive and well, especially in an evolved modern world.
Even though a world at peace may have seemed impossible in early human history -- in China, Greece and Rome -- and even 70 years ago in Europe and the Pacific, not to mention in the Middle East today, the study of world philosophy leads one to contemplate a different way.
Can we have collaboration and competition over confrontation and destruction?
FIFA and the World Cup -- Japan vs. United States in Germany, and winning -- shows us these insights:  people can make a difference once they are committed to building partnerships as the tao, pathway, toward peace.
Individuals, from team captains to goalies, from parents to politicians, can make a difference for themselves, their teams, their country and the world.  It’s proof of the strength of those American, human values of freedom, democracy and a commitment to peace. 
Everyone wins when that’s the goal.
Japan's 2011 World Cup winning women's team.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Freedom & Responsibility - United States Constitution

by Bill Doughty
What do the Casey Anthony trial, the right to vote, assault weapon restrictions, abortion debate, and the debt ceiling crisis have in common?  For one thing, the U.S. Constitution... 
The Constitution, Bill of Rights and the other amendments outline the rule of law, voting rights and federal-state balance of power, to “establish Justice, ensure Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Prosterity.”
People on both sides of political divides figuratively wrap themselves in the parchment of our founders.  
One side may feel the words are immutable, that the Constitution is a sacred “covenant,” to quote some; the other side may feel the ideas are more important than strict interpretations of the words, a “compass,” a “blueprint,” a “living document,” according to others.  
Both sides struggle with the meaning of the words, then and now.  
Some Supreme Court justices believe in interpreting and obeying the words of the Constitution as perfect, fixed and unwavering; others see the document as imperfect and evolving, an attempt “in Order to form a more perfect Union...”
On Jan. 5, 2011 the U.S. Congress read the Constitution aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives but purposely did not include the original parts allowing and extending slavery or counting African Americans as only three-fifths of a person.  The Constitution did not allow women the right to vote till 1920.  The eighteenth amendment initiated prohibition in 1919, only to be repealed by the twenty-first amendment in 1933. Native Americans did not have the right to citizenship until the 1924.
With all its imperfections and course-corrections, the Constitution -- along with the Declaration of Independence we celebrate this July 4th, 2011 -- is viable and strong for We the People and an inspiration for all people around the world.
The United States Constitution is worth defending for the liberty, justice and peace it tries to guarantee people everywhere; it’s worth reading and understanding for the robust give-and-take debate it most certainly guarantees in our country.
A wise U.S. Marine sergeant major, my dad, told me you cannot have freedom without responsibility.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 27, 2011) Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) 
Adm. Gary Roughead administers the oath of office at the U.S. Naval 
Academy Class of 2011 graduation and commissioning ceremony. 
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Tiffini Jones Vanderwyst)
Perhaps our greatest responsibility is to not only defend the Constitution but also read and appreciate how and why it was drafted.  What was George Washington’s critical role?  How did Alexander Hamilton and James Madison contribute?
The nation’s founders, especially Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, men who benefited from the Enlightenment, knew they were creating a work that would have to be amended. What they established for us was a sublime system for regulating government and balancing power, reaching compromise, and ensuring freedom with responsibility.
According to historian Eric Foner:
Americans have sometimes believed they enjoy the greatest freedom of all -- freedom from history. No people can escape being bound, to some extent, by their past. But if history teaches anything, it is that the definitions of freedom and of the community entitled to enjoy it are never fixed or final. We may not have it in our power, as Thomas Paine proclaimed in 1776, ‘to begin the world over again.’ But we can decide for ourselves what freedom is. No one can predict the ultimate fate of current understandings of freedom, or whether alternative traditions now in eclipse -- freedom as economic security, freedom as active participation in democratic governance, freedom as social justice for those long disadvantaged -- will be rediscovered and reconfigured to meet the challenges of the new century. All one can hope is that, in the future, the better angels of our nature (to borrow Lincoln’s words) will reclaim their place in the forever unfinished story of American freedom.

Our United States Constitution is one of the core documents recommended in the Navy Professional Reading Program and included in The Declaration of Independence and other Great Documents of American History.  NPRP was introduced to the Navy aboard USS Constitution in Boston on Sept. 19, 2006.
BOSTON (June 3, 2011) USS Constitution greets the guided-missile frigate USS Carr (FFG 52).
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kathryn E. Macdonald)