Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age – by Kurt Beyer

If you have ever wanted to know more about how the first computers were programmed, this book will answer many of your questions.

The author, Kurt Beyer, tells the story of the earliest computers and the people who programmed them. He does this through a biography of Grace Hopper, a famous programmer and the inventor of many programming techniques and technologies. As the reader learns about Hopper’s life and accomplishments, the history of the “Information Age” gradually unfolds.

Beyer coined two terms in his book: ‘distributed invention’ and ‘distributed biography.’ Distributed invention happens when many people share information and invent technology together, a strategy Grace Hopper utilized often in her work because it resulted in better inventions, according to Beyer. Similarly, distributed biography is not the biography of a single person. It’s a biography of an entire time period, of which several important people play a part. For example, Grace Hopper is the main figure in the narrative, but the book delves into the age of computers from World War II onward.

I knew very little about computer history when I began reading this book. By the time I was finished, I felt overwhelmed by the problems that faced the first programmers. The computers of World War II were huge, clunky machines that broke frequently and needed dozens of personnel attending to them. Complicated math problems took months for these machines to solve, and people like Hopper were in charge of programming these solutions, 24/7/365, for the US Navy. After reading about all the effort that went into the Information Age, I now have a greater appreciation for computers, and programming in general.

Beyer’s book is very informative all the important people and events in the dawn of computer programming. I would recommend it to programmers, computer enthusiasts, or anyone who wants to know more about this pivotal point in human history!

Special thanks for this blog entry go to:

My Java programming teacher, Ms. Fetcho. I am glad that I chose to read this particular book over winter break. I learned a lot from this assignment!

The Stanford University Science, Technology & Society program. I found this book while browsing their website. I can see why the book is of interest to the program; it’s very interdisciplinary in its focus and I found the subject matter fascinating.