The February 2023 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age

A new biography of the woman who came up with the notion of the computer bug has some flaws of its own

2 min read

In Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories for Little Children, an animal’s defining feature (a camel’s hump, for example) is made to seem as though it were the inevitable outcome of the animal’s origin (the hump was punishment for refusing to do a full day’s work). The lazy historian often succumbs to just-so history—a parade of inevitabilities that leads inexorably to today. Avoiding that temptation is a challenge for every biographer, as illustrated by Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age , Kurt Beyer’s frequently able account of computing pioneer Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.

Beyer, a former professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, adds needed nuance and complexity to orthodox histories of computing, in which legendary companies like IBM dominate, rolling out game-changing innovations like computer RAM only when it is ready, holding onto old technologies, such as punch cards, when they aren’t.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

Keep Reading ↓Show less