Watch Grace Hopper talk about nanoseconds and pantyhose

Celebrate the 107th birthday of a computer pioneer by listening to her interview with David Letterman

Yesterday marked the 107th anniversary of the birth of Grace Hopper. Hopper, you probably know, was a pioneer in the world of computers and computer programming. Her many accomplishments included programming one of the first computers, writing the first compiler, developing the pre-cursor to COBOL and doing this all, oh, by the way, while working her way up the ranks of the US Navy where she eventually became a rear admiral. 

To celebrate her birthday, Google created a doodle in her honor and millions of kids and adults are taking part in the Hour of Code as part of Computer Science Education Week this week.

My favorite way to remember this great woman is to watch her crack wise with Dave Letterman on his old Late Night show in October 1986, two months before she turned 80. Here’s the video of her appearance, in which she pulls out her famous prop for demonstrating what a nanosecond is and in which she also discusses her difficulty finding a pair of pantyhose that fit.

Here’s an interview she did with 60 Minutes back in March of 1983, in which you can see her demonstrate her microsecond prop and listen to her say that, at that time, we were really only at the start of the computer revolution.

Finally, if you really want to spend some time listening to her, here’s an hour and a half long talk she gave (I’m not sure exactly where or when it was, but it looks to be around the same time as these other videos). Skip the first 3:30 minutes during which the audio is bad, but otherwise sit back, relax and enjoy listening to the titan of technology share some of her wisdom in her usual witty manner.

She really was a national treasure, for many reasons. Happy birthday, Admiral Hopper!

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