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Grace Hopper and the Marvelous Machine: Lessons for Modern Technical Communicators from the Mark I ASCC Manual

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Date Issued:
2017
Abstract/Description:
Women's technical writing achievements often go unrecognized, both due to the invisibility of technical writing professionals in general, and a lack of famous technical communication role models in particular. The purpose of this thesis is to analyze and present an early major work in the technical writing of Rear Admiral (")Amazing(") Grace Hopper, inventor of the compiler and an important figure in computer science history. Although Hopper is arguably best known for popularizing the idea of the (")computer bug,(") her achievements in computer science extend from invention of the software compiler to tireless promotion of the programming language COBOL. Her work A Manual of Operation for the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, written for the first digital computer in America, is analyzed here according to Mike Markel's eight criteria of excellent technical writing: honesty, clarity, accuracy, comprehensiveness, accessibility, conciseness, professional appearance, and correctness. I also cover other specific strengths of Grace's approach, including how she establishes sufficient context, highlights multiple uses for information, and provides numerous well-chosen examples for audience needs. However, I also discuss how modern research principles for improving technical writing, including task-orientation, attention to cognitive load, and minimalism, help explain the manual's shortcomings. I conclude my study with a discussion of Hopper's later work, (")The Education of a Computer,(") to demonstrate her growth as a writer. The conclusion also highlights areas awaiting further research and cements my recommendation that study of Grace Hopper's work be incorporated into our historical understanding of the discipline. Hopper's technical writing deserves to be more widely understood and appreciated as a vital contribution to early software documentation.
Title: Grace Hopper and the Marvelous Machine: Lessons for Modern Technical Communicators from the Mark I ASCC Manual.
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Name(s): Meyr, Jessica, Author
Jones, Dan, Committee Chair
Dombrowski, Paul, Committee Member
Applen, John, Committee Member
University of Central Florida, Degree Grantor
Type of Resource: text
Date Issued: 2017
Publisher: University of Central Florida
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: Women's technical writing achievements often go unrecognized, both due to the invisibility of technical writing professionals in general, and a lack of famous technical communication role models in particular. The purpose of this thesis is to analyze and present an early major work in the technical writing of Rear Admiral (")Amazing(") Grace Hopper, inventor of the compiler and an important figure in computer science history. Although Hopper is arguably best known for popularizing the idea of the (")computer bug,(") her achievements in computer science extend from invention of the software compiler to tireless promotion of the programming language COBOL. Her work A Manual of Operation for the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, written for the first digital computer in America, is analyzed here according to Mike Markel's eight criteria of excellent technical writing: honesty, clarity, accuracy, comprehensiveness, accessibility, conciseness, professional appearance, and correctness. I also cover other specific strengths of Grace's approach, including how she establishes sufficient context, highlights multiple uses for information, and provides numerous well-chosen examples for audience needs. However, I also discuss how modern research principles for improving technical writing, including task-orientation, attention to cognitive load, and minimalism, help explain the manual's shortcomings. I conclude my study with a discussion of Hopper's later work, (")The Education of a Computer,(") to demonstrate her growth as a writer. The conclusion also highlights areas awaiting further research and cements my recommendation that study of Grace Hopper's work be incorporated into our historical understanding of the discipline. Hopper's technical writing deserves to be more widely understood and appreciated as a vital contribution to early software documentation.
Identifier: CFE0006625 (IID), ucf:51263 (fedora)
Note(s): 2017-05-01
M.A.
Arts and Humanities, English
Masters
This record was generated from author submitted information.
Subject(s): technical writing -- technical communication -- Grace Hopper -- Harvard Mark I -- Mark I ASCC -- computer history -- early computing -- user documentation -- technical manuals -- World War II -- Navy technical manuals -- technical manuals - armed forces
Persistent Link to This Record: http://purl.flvc.org/ucf/fd/CFE0006625
Restrictions on Access: public 2017-05-15
Host Institution: UCF

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