Grace Hopper : Readable code and bugs

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Image credit: James S. Davis

A United States Navy rear admiral may not be the person you expect to be an expert programmer who the trailblazed the development of the first English-like programming language but  Grace Hopper is that person.

When Grace started out as a programmer she had to use codes, made up of letters and numbers, to write programs. She decided that this was not sensible and that English words should be used as commands for programming.

Grace’s idea was to create a compiler – a software tool that translated these human-readable terms into the codes that machines could use. At first,  people said that this was not a good idea and not possible. She proved them wrong and made sure it was developed, it was called the ‘A compiler’.  This revolutionised programming and the idea is still used today.

Grace also is famously credited with finding the first bug, find out about her debugging antics on the  cs4fn website.


English: Create a new language and learn about grammar at the same time. Create a diagram using bubbles and lines to depict a simple sentence such as ‘The hat is black’ using the correct technical terms for each word and put each term in a bubble and join them with arrows to show the order of the terms. This would be a bubble diagram  of article -> noun-> verb->noun.

Create a new set of nouns and adjectives for your own language and use your bubble diagram as the rules for the use of your new words. For example, a word that means a floppy hat might be ‘spuld’, a new word of the colour of daybreak that is orangy blue is ‘gleeeb’. So, a sentence in my new language might be ‘The spuld is gleeeb’. Here we are learning about the idea of translating from one language to another (a fundamental concept in creating compilers), but at the same time learning about the structure of languages.

This work was supported by the Institute of Coding, which is supported by the Office for Students (OfS).