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Grace Hopper nanosecond

Contributor(s): shaneu; Herzl (Tselly) Regev

A Grace Hopper nanosecond is a visual aid that represents how fast electricity can travel in one billionth of a second.

The  name comes from the foot-long lengths of telephone wire that Admiral Grace Hopper used to give out at lectures. Admiral Hopper used the wires to illustrate how in one billionth of second (a nanosecond ) an electronic signal can travel almost twelve inches. 

Admiral Hopper believed that by providing learners with a concrete analogy already in their frame of reference, it was possible to help them absorb and even understand an abstract concept that might otherwise be too difficult to comprehend.

In addition to being a gifted programmer, Admiral Hopper was quite famous during her lifetime for her teaching skills. Towards the end of her life, when asked which of her many accomplishments she was most proud of, Admiral Hopper replied, "All the young people I have trained over the years."

In education, the label Grace Hopper nanosecond is sometimes used to describe any visual aid that helps students understand an abstract concept. 

Admiral Grace Hopper explains the concept of nanosecond.


This was last updated in December 2013

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I was lucky enough to meet Adm Hopper when she had just added to her nanosecond visual aid (the foot long wire) a picosecond visual - the pepper from a pepper shaker.

- Casey


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