[Ads-l] Question About Grace Murray Hopper As Word-Coiner

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Tue Feb 14 21:13:13 EST 2017

I would say that any computer that is programmable has software, whether or not it uses an "internally stored program".   And surely punched paper tape is softer than relays.


      From: James A. Landau <JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM>
 Sent: Tuesday, February 14, 2017 7:49 PM
 Subject: Re: [ADS-L] Question About Grace Murray Hopper As Word-Coiner
On Mon, 13 Feb 2017 18:34:19 +0000 Peter Reitan <pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

<quote>My sense is that it would depend on whether she used "bug" to refer to a 
problem in the hardware (which would be merely an example of an earlier 
engineering use) or to a problem with the software, which would seem 
more like something new and different.</quote>

in response to Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU> post Monday, February 13, 2017 10:16 AM reading:
<quote>If one considers the specific usage of "bug" applied to computers as an important subsense of the word, as opposed to merely an example of the broader engineering usage, then Hopper may reasonably be considered as the coiner of that subsense.</quote>

My response:
This was definitely a hardware bug.  "Software" refers to a program stored within the memory (RAM) of a computer, and the first computer to have an internally stored program did not become operational until 1948.  Hence I would say that Hopper was using the existing subsense meaning an "engineering problem" rather than creating a new subsense.

A simpler way of looking at this:  Hopper, rather than coining a new term, was making a pun on an existing term.

This is not the only pun perpetrated by Hopper.  In the 1950's she worked on developing a computer language for scientific and engineering calculations.  The name she gave this language?  "Math-Matic".

- Jim Landau

Netscape.  Just the Net You Need.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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