Amazing Grace

December 17, 2014 at 8:10 pm 22 comments

for friday fictioneers 100-word challenge 19 December 2014

Note: I want to thank Mr. MacIlroy for giving me the opportunity to write a half true and half fiction story about my favorite hero, Grace M. Hopper (1906-1992), computer pioneer and U.S. Navy Real Admiral. <blush> <blush> I have her picture in my cube for inspiration.

Douglas M. MacIlroy
Photo Credit: Douglas M. MacIlroy

It was the dawn of the information age. Inside the research lab, Grace was stumped. The developmental machine she was working on wouldn’t power on.

It couldn’t have come at a worse time. She’d be making a presentation soon to prove to her bosses it was more than a glamorized calculator to continue funding for it.

Grace reviewed the specs and updates she had made to her code and found nothing wrong. Suddenly, in a bit of hindsight, she looked inside the machine and found the problem. It was a short circuit caused by a bug trapped on the relays.

Grace M. Hopper
Grace M. Hopper (Photo Source:

Grace Hopper Quotes:

A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.

It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

The most dangerous phrase in the language is, “We’ve always done it this way.”

Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, “We’ve always done it this way.” I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.

You don’t manage people, you manage things. You lead people.

Leadership is a two-way street, loyalty up and loyalty down. Respect for one’s superiors; care for one’s crew.

One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions.

Some day, on the corporate balance sheet, there will be an entry which reads, “Information”; for in most cases, the information is more valuable than the hardware which processes it.

We’re flooding people with information. We need to feed it through a processor. A human must turn information into intelligence or knowledge. We’ve tended to forget that no computer will ever ask a new question.


Entry filed under: Blogroll, friday fictioneers. Tags: , , .

wordless wednesday: lost in translation weekly photo challenge: yellow

22 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sandra  |  December 18, 2014 at 12:08 am

    Nice take on the prompt. And some interesting information too when I googled Grace Hopper. Well done.

    • 2. plaridel  |  December 18, 2014 at 10:10 am


      thank you. she is a very interesting read.

  • 3. dmmacilroy  |  December 18, 2014 at 2:22 am

    Dear Plaridel.

    You are welcome. I first learned of Admiral Hooper when I was in the Navy a thousand years ago. You are wise to have her picture nearby for inspiration. A well told tale and some very pithy quotes.



    • 4. plaridel  |  December 18, 2014 at 10:10 am


      COBOL, the programming language that she developed, was the first one i learned in college and it started my career before moving to the desktop world. that’s the reason why she’s special to me.

  • 5. rochellewisoff  |  December 18, 2014 at 2:22 am

    Dear Plaridel,

    Very interesting story and love the quotes.

    Suggestion on your first sentence, second paragraph. I think it will make more sense as “It couldn’t have come at A WORSE time.”

    Love the way you used the prompt.



    • 6. plaridel  |  December 18, 2014 at 10:11 am


      i think both are correct, but your suggestion sounds better to my ear. i made the change. thank you for pointing it out to me.

  • 7. draliman  |  December 18, 2014 at 7:27 am

    So it really was a “bug” then 🙂 I hope she manages to extract it from the circuitry before the big boss turns up.

    • 8. plaridel  |  December 18, 2014 at 10:12 am


      actually, it was a moth. it was extracted and saved in a log book for posterity.

      computer bug


  • 9. wildbilbo  |  December 18, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    A slice of history. Nice work.

    • 10. plaridel  |  December 19, 2014 at 7:38 pm


      thank you. 🙂

  • 11. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)  |  December 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    I had not heard of Grace before.. how interesting.. the story of debugging I had heard before… ..

    • 12. plaridel  |  December 19, 2014 at 7:40 pm


      now you can read more about her on the internet. 🙂

  • 13. Amy Reese  |  December 19, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Those bugs always end up in the wrong place, don’t they? I see here is was a moth. Perhaps it was attracted to the light. That’s really cool you got to write about your hero. Great bit of history and story!

    • 14. plaridel  |  December 19, 2014 at 7:53 pm


      back in the day, computers were so big that they occupied whole rooms. it wasn’t unusual to find bugs and moths inside these machines attracted by the warmth that their electronics generated. i suggest that you read more about this fascinating woman.

  • 15. Margaret  |  December 20, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Fascinating. A nice snapshot of a key moment, and one that brings the lady alive, even if the reader isn’t familiar with the true story.

    • 16. plaridel  |  December 20, 2014 at 7:44 pm


      i’m glad you liked it. 🙂

  • 17. aliciajamtaas  |  December 21, 2014 at 8:20 am

    Thanks for a good story that enlightened me. I’d never heard of this wonderful lady. Cheers, Alicia

    • 18. plaridel  |  December 22, 2014 at 1:10 pm


      it’s never too late to find out more about this great woman. 🙂

  • 19. Weltchysnotebook  |  December 22, 2014 at 3:17 am

    I too did COBOL at college. Never touched it after that. An interest and fascinating taking on the prompt.

    • 20. plaridel  |  December 22, 2014 at 1:16 pm


      COBOL still lives on mainframe computers. i was surprised to learn that the COBOL program i wrote seven years ago is still in use in one of the major banks. 🙂

  • 21. Nan Falkner  |  December 22, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    Dear plaridel, You did some research on this – she sounds like an amazing lady. I hadn’t heard of her before but I told Mike and he looked her up. Quite impressive! Have a wonderful week! Nan 🙂

    • 22. plaridel  |  December 23, 2014 at 9:47 am


      she was of a kind indeed. when she was teaching in college, she used to give the final exam on the first day of class so her students would know what she expected them to learn.


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