Did you ever meet Grace Hopper?
I first came across Admiral Grace Hopper when I was a teenager attending my sister's graduation from the College of William and Mary. Two things stand out about that experience. First, I remember this old, fragile looking woman sitting there, knitting, while the other college dignitaries spoke. Not everyday do you get to see an Admiral knit. But once she began speaking, I was struck by her confident, commanding voice, her humor, and her vision of the computing future. I guess I was used to my own grandmother constantly talking about the past...so it was striking to hear this older woman talking about a future that I couldn't even imagine at the time.
What made you decide to write about Grace Hopper and the first 30 years of the computer industry?
Grace Hopper influenced my own career choices, first as a naval officer, then as an academic, and finally as an entrepreneur. When I arrived at the United States Naval Academy on a hot day in July during the summer of 1986, Admiral Hopper had been influencing naval computer policy for twenty years. I was issued a personal computer, we had access to mil.net, the precursor to the internet. We emailed our professors, signed up for classes online, and our medical and dental records were digitized. The Academy's core curriculum was modified to incorporate computer use into many of our engineering and math classes, and Hopper herself came to speak to us lowly Plebes to encourage us to lead the computer revolution in and out of the navy.
By this time she was pretty legendary in the Navy, so I was shocked to arrive in Silicon Valley during the great dot.com boom of the 1990s and I found that few people my age knew who she was or what she had accomplished. As I pieced together the evolution of the computer industry for my PhD work at the University of California, Berkeley, I was actually surprised how influential the younger Hopper was during the first 30 years of the industry, so in the end my editors and I at MIT Press thought it best to tell the story of the early computer age through Hopper's career.
About Kurt Beyer
Dr. Kurt Beyer is a member of UC Berkeley’s Haas Business School and Graduate School of Information Science faculties, where he teachings the entrepreneurship program to MBAs, undergrads, and grad students. The program produces multiple promising startups each year including recent successes Indiegogo, Tubemogul, Magoosh, Mobileworks, Traveling Spoon, Plushcare, Noglo, Socialwire, and Vires Aerospace. Former students hold prominent positions at successful startups Uber, Pinterest, Postmates, Clever, Elance, LiveRamp, Kenshoo, and Education Elements. Kurt also serves as a partner at Parallel Advisors where is advises executives at recent IPO startups Yelp and Marin Software in addition to many successful earlier stage companies.
Prior to joining Berkeley and Parallel Advisors Kurt was a faculty member at the United States Naval Academy and founder of Riptopia Digital Media where he served as CEO for 6 years. During the 1990s Kurt flew F-14 Tomcats and was assigned to a fighter squadron at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach. Injury cut his naval career short, and Kurt was honorably discharged, receiving a Navy Commendation Medal and National Defense Service Medal.
Kurt is the author of Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age, published by MIT Press in 2010, which highlights the rise of the computer industry through the amazing career of Grace Hopper, the woman responsible for the development of computer programming. The book was in the Top 10 Science/Technology books for 2010/2011.
Kurt earned his BS in engineering and history from the U.S. Naval Academy where he served as Brigade Commander senior year. He received an MA in economics and philosophy from Oxford University, and a PhD in the history of science and technology and economic history from UC Berkeley. Born and raised by an immigrant working class family on Long Island, Kurt now makes his home in Marin County with his wife Johanna and two sons Charlie and Gus.