Three sections of Tide Predicting Machine No. 2, also known as “Old Brass Brains”, a special purpose mechanical analog computer for predicting the height and time of high and low tides. The United States government used the machine from 1910 to 1965 to produce tide predictions by an intricate arrangement of gears, pulleys, chains, slides, and other mechanical components. Using Old Brass Brains, a year’s tides could be calculated over the course of two to three days, as opposed to the hundreds of days required by making the calculations by hand.
The PERQ, also referred to as the Three Rivers PERQ or ICL PERQ, was a pioneering workstation computer produced in the early 1980s.
The workstation was conceived by six former Carnegie Mellon University alumni and employees, Brian S. Rosen, James R. Teter, William H. Broadley, J. Stanley Kriz, D. Raj Reddy and Paul G. Newbury, who formed the startup Three Rivers Computer Corporation (3RCC) in 1974. Brian Rosen also worked at Xerox PARC on the Dolphin workstation. The PERQ design was influenced by the original workstation computer, the Xerox Alto. It was the first commercially produced personal workstation, a prototype PERQ being shown at the 1979 SIGGRAPH conference. The origin of the name “PERQ” was chosen both as an acronym of “Pascal Engine that Runs Quicker,” and to evoke the word perquisite.
Grace Brewster Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992), née Grace Brewster Murray, was an American computer scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral. She was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer in 1944, invented the first compiler for a computer programming language, and was one of those who popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages.
Grace was very curious as a child, a lifelong trait: at the age of seven she decided to determine how an alarm clock worked, and dismantled seven alarm clocks before her mother realized what she was doing (she was then limited to one clock). For her preparatory school education, she attended the Hartridge School in Plainfield, New Jersey. Rejected for early admission to Vassar College at age 16 (her test scores in Latin were too low), she was admitted the following year. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar in 1928 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics and earned her master’s degree at Yale University in 1930.In 1934, she earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale under the direction of Øystein Ore. Her dissertation, New Types of Irreducibility Criteria, was published that same year. Hopper began teaching mathematics at Vassar in 1931, and was promoted to associate professor in 1941.
She was married to New York University professor Vincent Foster Hopper (1906–76) from 1930 until their divorce in 1945. She did not marry again, but she kept his surname.
In 1943, during World War II, Hopper obtained a leave of absence from Vassar and was sworn into the United States Navy Reserve, one of many women to volunteer to serve in the WAVES. Hopper graduated first in her class in 1944, and was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard University as a lieutenant, junior grade. She served on the Mark I computer programming staff headed by Howard H. Aiken. Hopper and Aiken coauthored three papers on the Mark I, also known as the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator.
In 1949, Hopper became an employee of the Eckert–Mauchly Computer Corporation as a senior mathematician and joined the team developing the UNIVAC I. In the early 1950s, the company was taken over by the Remington Rand corporation, and it was while she was working for them that her original compiler work was done.
In 1952 she had an operational compiler. “Nobody believed that,” she said. “I had a running compiler and nobody would touch it. They told me computers could only do arithmetic.”
In 1954 Hopper was named the company’s first director of automatic programming, and her department released some of the first compiler-based programming languages, including MATH-MATIC and FLOW-MATIC.
In the spring of 1959, a two-day conference known as the Conference on Data Systems Languages (CODASYL) brought together computer experts from industry and government. Hopper served as a technical consultant to the committee, and many of her former employees served on the short-term committee that defined the new language COBOL (an acronym for COmmon Business-Oriented Language).
The new language extended Hopper’s FLOW-MATIC language with some ideas from the IBM equivalent, COMTRAN. Hopper’s belief that programs should be written in a language that was close to English (rather than in machine code or in languages close to machine code, such as assembly languages) was captured in the new business language, and COBOL went on to be the most ubiquitous business language to date.