Sunday, September 04, 2005

Weird Science: Hopper’s Rule

Now I know you are thinking kangaroo mice or rabbits, but they have nothing to do with Hopper’s Rule, though I am sure there are some ingrained hopping rules for mice and rabbits.

I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate (Oh my god, speculation in a science piece?) that Hopper’s rule was named after Grace Hopper who, in the early 1950s developed the first compiler in conjunction with the first programming language "Fortran".

She called it the A-O compiler (true statement) - most likely from working 20 hours a day on it, drinking tequila and singing ‘AO... A-a-a-Ohh, daylight come and I want to go home. (false statement) . . . ahem... Sorry about that.

All this silliness, but I still haven’t explained what Hopper’s Rule is, have I? Okay, enough suspense. Here comes the goods.

Hopper’s rule states that electricity travels one foot in one nano-second or one billionth of a second. This is one of many rules used by computer programmers and it is the supposed limitation on the possible speed of a computer. A speed limit, if you will, of signals in electrical circuits.

I’m sure her supervisor at that time looked down upon her compiler and said, "you have done well, Grace Hopper . . . "

Okay, that wasn’t too funny, but without Grace Hopper’s work the ease of interchange between man and machine may not have gone as smoothly or developed as rapidly.

I’m reminded now of Scotty holding a mouse - "computer." *shake shake* "computer."

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