Thanks to the power of computing you can watch Commodore Grace Hopper delivering her landmark lecture at MIT Laboratory on 25 April 1985.
The entire presentation is excellent and worth listening to. But my favorite line is right around 23 minutes in, when after describing the nature of technology innovation she says:
“Probably the most dangerous phrase you could ever use in any computer installation is that dreadful one: ‘but we’ve always done it that way.’ That one is a forbidden phrase in my office.”
The entire lecture is full of her famous dry wit and humor, but also great advice. At around 31 minutes in she describes what sounds like an underground movement to start a newsletter. The people who did it, at her encouragement, just did it instead of following the rules. The did do one thing legally, she said. They got permission from Nabesco to get their permission to use one of their brands. They called their magazine, Chips Ahoy.
At about 33 minutes in she describes how one early computer advocate in the navy took the initiative of writing for the non technical person who needed to know about computers. She proudly mentioned how he wrote in plain english so seniors can understand and said:
“I would urge all of you please to write more stuff in plain english so we can feed it to admirals and generals and people like that. They don’t understand computerezze they need plain english and we have got to convert them in one way or another.”
Throughout the discussion she encourages leaders in technology to keep moving forward and innovating before asking permission.
At about 46 minutes in you will see her holding a piece of wire that is 11.8 inches long. If you are a Grace Hopper fan you know what this is about. But if you have not heard it directly from her yourself, this is your chance!
The rest of the lecture is full of laughs. But it was especially fun hearing her discuss how the instructions on shampoo bottles could use a re-write. Ha!
The presentation is available online at:
For more about Grace Hopper see her page on Chips (Yes the magazine her team created in still out there).
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