Tester’s Day and the amazing “Grandma COBOL” - Questers

Tester’s Day and the amazing “Grandma COBOL”

On the 9th of September many Testers and Quality Assurance Specialists celebrate their professional day. Have you come across the story behind?

On this date in 1947 the American computer scientist and US Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was working on a Harvard Mark II computer and allegedly spotted a moth that was stuck in the relay. The story continues with the moth being of course removed and the case being described as “the first actual case of bug being found” in the log book. Both – the log book and the remains of the month, can be now found at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.


It appears however, as Hopper has later admitted, that she wasn’t the one who found the month. Describing the case as the first actual bug found implies Grace Hopper and her team were also not the ones inventing the term. The term "bug" describing defects appears to have been a part of engineering jargon since the 1870s and it might have originally been used in hardware engineering to describe mechanical malfunctions. Thomas Edison for example has used the term back in 1878 in a letter to an associate:

“It has been just so in all of my inventions. The first step is an intuition, and comes with a burst, then difficulties arise—this thing gives out and then that "Bugs"—as such little faults and difficulties are called—show themselves and months of intense watching, study and labor are requisite before commercial success or failure is certainly reached.

No matter that, this story is a great occasion to find out more about the “Amazing Grace”, so here are some intriguing facts about her life:

  • Grace Hopper began her computing career in 1944 and has worked on both Harvard Mark I and II. After joining Eckert–Mauchly Computer Corporation she became part of the team that developed the UNIVAC I computer.
  • In 1952 she invented on of the first compilers – program linker written for the A-0 System.
  • The programming language COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) – still used nowadays, was inspired by Grace Hopper’s idea of programming languages being based on English words.
  • Hopper was a US Navy Rear Admiral. She first attempted to join the Navy during World War II, however was rejected due to her age and joined the Navy Reserves. Due to her accomplishments and naval rank, she was often referred to as "Amazing Grace". Subsequently the U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper was named after her and so was the Cray XE6 "Hopper" supercomputer at NERSC.
  • During her lifetime, she was awarded 40 honorary degrees from various universities around the world and a college at Yale University was renamed in her honor. In 1991, she received the National Medal of Technology of the United States and in November 2016, she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama.

All these facts may have little to do with the Tester’s Day, however absolutely inspiring, no doubt! Happy Tester’s Day!