Hopper had written the first compiler. None of these HCI professionals said, “Grace Hopper was the
first HCI visionary.” But she was.
Reading her papers, it is clear that
she pioneered user-centered design.
Grace Murray graduated from
the Hartridge School for Girls
in 1924, within days of Lillian
Gilbreth being widowed 20 miles
away. She attended Vassar and at
Yale acquired a master’s, a Ph.D.
in mathematics, and a husband,
Vincent Hopper. She began teaching at Vassar in 1931 and in 1943
left to join the Naval Reserve.
Lieutenant Hopper was assigned
to the Navy’s computation project
at Harvard. That set her direction for life: She turned down a
full professorship at Vassar to
continue working with computers in the Harvard Computation
Lab, at Eckert-Mauchly/Remington
Rand, in the U.S. Navy, and at
Digital Equipment Corporation [ 5].
In the 1940s and 1950s, computers were not used interactively.
Programs ran uninterrupted from
start to finish, computing missile trajectories, nuclear fission
processes, and eventually some
business processes. Programs were
written, mostly by mathematicians
and engineers, in machine code—
addresses, registers, and operations represented by sequences of
0s and 1s—or assembly language,
with simple mnemonics converted
into machine code. Such programming was difficult and the programs were hard to debug, maintain, and port to other computers.
Grace Hopper saw that computer
processing could remove this ardu-
ous interface and “free mathemati-
cians to do mathematics.” Thirty
years later, this goal—freeing
computer users to focus on their
tasks—was fundamental to the
emerging field of human-computer i n