Grace Hopper gave us the term 'debugging' – in more ways than one

Grace Hopper: Today's Google Doodle honors computer programming language pioneer Grace Hopper, who is credited with popularizing the term 'debugging' after finding an actual moth in her computer. Parents take note, it might be time to clean the keyboard.

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Grace Hopper: Today's Google Doodle honors computer programming pioneer Grace Hopper.

Today’s Google celebrates computer programming language pioneer Navy Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. We all can thank Ms. Hopper for the term “debugging,” which to most people means fixing a glitch, but parents might take it as a reminder to clean out the keyboard before something crawls out of it.

Ms. Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) is credited with popularizing the term "debugging" after finding an actual moth in her computer. There’s a photo of it on her official Navy page

The moth was found trapped in the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator while it was being tested at Harvard University, September 9, 1947, accofding to Hopper’s naval history page.

“The operators affixed the moth to the computer log, with the entry: ‘First actual case of bug being found.’ They put out the word that they had ‘debugged’ the machine,” according to the Navy page.

While I could talk all about the importance of getting girls into Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) instead my point is the importance of teaching girls and boys what I’m going to call a Hopper Doodle Do: clean out your keyboard kids!

Better yet, don’t eat at the computer while are drinking in all that knowledge.

My personal mission to clean out our keyboards wasn’t due to Ms. Hopper, but an experience I had during a very brief run as the social media coordinator for a small local television station here in Norfolk, VA in the fall.

My first week on the job, working nights until midnight, I was typing when something tickled my fingertips. That something was a feeler from what turned out to be a shockingly large cockroach.

People all over the newsroom turned to see what furious missive I must be writing as I tried to squash the bug with various keystrokes.

No such luck. This baby had apparently been born and raised in the fast paced underworld environs of newsroom typing.

When I called for tech assistance the answer came back, “We keep telling people not to eat at their desks! Just put the keyboard outside and we’ll get it later.” 

The next morning the children woke to find their mother, a woman possessed, vacuuming and shaking out the keyboards.

If you are operating under the delusion that your kids never eat at the computer just turn the keyboard upside down and shake. The contents of your keyboard might just surprise you, while the cleanout might stop letters from sticking anymore.

However, despite my best efforts, last week when the Virginia weather neared an unseasonably balmy 80-degrees, my 10-year-old could be heard shouting, “Mommomomomomomomomommm!”

When I arrived at the computer where he’d been playing Minecraft, he was pointing to the computer as if it had come alive, and in a way it had. Ladybugs were coming out of from under the letters and that spelled trouble.

In this case it wasn’t due to snacking, but the fact that the computer sits by a window with a potted plant. In the warm weather our neighborhood saw a huge ladybug bloom for a few days.

My best guess is that the bugs travelled from window to plant to dark keyboard. Perhaps after one of our two cats pawed at the soil (another habit to drive me buggy) the creatures made the keyboard home.

When it happened to Hopper, the Navy circulated a cleaning memo. Perhaps part of honoring her today should circulate a similar memo at home in order to keep things ship shape and Hopper fashion.

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