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.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
English; Technical Communications
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Meyr, Jessica, "Grace Hopper and the Marvelous Machine: Lessons for Modern Technical Communicators from the Mark I ASCC Manual" (2017). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 5396.