back to article Obama awards honours to Grace Hopper, Margaret Hamilton for computing contributions

President Barack Obama has awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to two women who made enormous contributions to the history of computing – COBOL co-inventor Grace Hopper and Apollo programmer Margaret Hamilton. Rear Admiral Grace Hopper passed away in 1992 and received the award posthumously. Also known as "Amazing Grace …

  1. cambsukguy

    Kudos to Hamilton of course but "which set the foundation for modern, ultra-reliable software design and engineering"?

    Does this exist? Did they use it on Schiaparelli?

    Maybe all the reliable, working Nuclear power stations that don't melt down use it?

    1. Steve K

      Given that almost all nuclear power stations (using such software) are reliable and have not melted down, then yes...

      Schiaparelli failed most likely because of the parameters used by the software for determining when to release the rear parachute - this is not a failure of the software itself.

      Additionally the other famous Mars lander issue was a units mix-up - so units entered to the program rather than a software failure.

      You can use computational means to prove software, but inputs to programs can still be incorrect for the current operating conditions...

      1. cambsukguy

        Actually, the latest info suggest that the SW 'thought' the lander was underground at one point. This could have been seen as a red flag that the data were wrong for that input at least.

        Of course, this is easy to say now, who would have thought to add the code to say "If the data say we are underground, disregard it".

        Never-the-less, info like "After this elapsed time, we ought to be about this high, anything outside a certain range must be wrong, guess a height". Guessing would probably result in a similar outcome though.

        It can be hard to get even a small amount of code right in all circumstances.

        1. Steve K

          Yes - just noticed that they have updated the reason for the failure.

          Another successful test for lithobraking........:-(

    2. Andrew Commons

      Maybe you should read this:

  2. &rew

    Hear Hear!

    Well deserved honours.

  3. kmac499


    We need more public recognition of such success and leadership to prove to aspiring female coders and software engineers it's well worth it.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Congratulations

      We need more public recognition of such success and leadership to prove to all aspiring female coders and software engineers it's well worth it.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Congratulations

      We need more public recognition of such success and leadership to prove to aspiring female (insert field) including coders and software engineers it's well worth it.


      How about not waiting until xx years after they died to recognise what they achieved?

      Bit like absolving Nefertiti, pointless exercise in political correctness and point scoring

  4. Dr Scrum Master

    According to Auntie the medal ceremony was for a bunch of actors and an alleged comedienne, but it now turns out that there were some worthwhile recipients!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Odd... the BBC news headline is:

      "Honour for software writer on Apollo moon mission"


      "An 80-year-old woman who wrote software for the Apollo space missions has been given the United States' highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom."

      Doesn't sound like an actor or comedienne to me

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Actually, Tom Hanks was also honored at the same ceremony, and he definitely knew who she was, and was really glad to finally meet her. Obviously he's a big space nut himself and did "Apollo 13" if anyone didn't know...

        There's a picture of them meeting and he has a huge fanboy expression.

      2. Denarius Silver badge

        this is Oz

        about normal for the local ABC. The more inconsequential the more they rabbit on about it.. Usual contempt of the chattering classes for any technical skills.

        I was informed of worthy recipients on ElReg. as none of the local sources of lies information mention unfashionable achievements, especially of women. A lot of babble about feminism though.

        However, well deserved kudos to Grace Hopper and Margaret Hamilton.

      3. Dr Scrum Master

        This is the story that appeared on my BBC News home page:

        Obama hails Ellen's 'incredible burden'

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stock image of Obama

    Is it me or does his head and arm look too big for the body?

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Stock image of Obama

      Yes, yes, we all know he is one of the lizard people and, because he was feeling lazy under the lights' heat, he stretched just a little bit too much.

      Nothing new here, carry on!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amazing how Ms. Hamilton had the time to do all that work in software and still be able to appear in movies like The Wizard of Oz and others.

    Sorry, couldn't help it...

  7. a_yank_lurker

    A bit late

    For Hopper and Hamilton these well deserved awards are bit late. Their contributions have critical to IT.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Admiral Hopper definitely looks like someone you wouldn't mess with.

    Congratulations to Margaret Hamilton, I assume everyone has seen this photo of her with the Apollo assembly code?

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Admiral Hopper definitely looks like someone you wouldn't mess with.

      Actually, she had a great sense of humor. She was on Johnny Carson a couple decades ago and she had no problem dealing with talk-show jokes and oddball questions. She even caught Carson out with a couple sly remarks and had him laughing.

      IIRC, she brought some "nanoseconds" (6" lengths of wire) and some "picoseconds" (condiment packets of pepper) to illustrate speed-of-light.

      I sure as hell wouldn't try to pull any sort of DevOps wool over her eyes though. Not if I wanted to keep my ability to reproduce.

      Both these women have been personal heroes of mine for a long time.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        'IIRC, she brought some "nanoseconds" (6" lengths of wire)'

        That would be more like half a nanosecond.

      2. beboyle

        Admiral Hopper used to be well-known for her "nanosecond" "microsecond" and "millisecond" wires that she used when giving talks to non-technical (mostly) audiences. The nanosecond was actually just under 12" long, the microsecond a spool of wire almost 1,000 feet long, and the millisecond was "too big to bring".

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Saw one of her talks ages ago in a television programme. Brilliant! Also made me finally understand why some operating systems won't work properly on some motherboards despite being "compatible".

  9. Mystic Megabyte


    "during here NASA work"

  10. Alistair

    Cannot recall where I first read it

    But the story of Admiral Hopper and the term "bug" has rather a number of variants.

    Absolutely time these ladies were properly 'saluted'.

    Kinda interesting that B. Obama really does seem to not care one whit what the rest of the world thinks about him. I suppose it no longer matters.

    Raising a glass to "The most dangerous phrase in the language".

  11. Gis Bun

    I guess a few who were honored outside of the tech field were honored because they'd never be honored under a Trump administration: Bruce Springsteen, Robert Redford, Robert De Niro, and Michael Jordan - all left wing supporters.

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