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Ada Lovelace Day: A Celebration of the World’s First Computer Programmer
Metro UK ^ | Tuesday 15 Oct 2013

Posted on 10/15/2013 3:08:58 PM PDT by nickcarraway

If you happen to do anything other than sleep in a cave today, chances are you have Ada Lovelace to thank for it. She is responsible for the first ever computer program. And she came up with it long before the computer even existed.

Today is the fifth annual Ada Lovelace Day, celebrating the achievement of a Victorian mother-of-three who would change the world.

Let’s travel back through time for a moment. Before the ZX Spectrum and before the Atari 2600, there was a thing that historians like to call the 19th century. The computer may have existed as a concept in the 1800s, but it had yet to materialise into something tangible. One idea for a computer was the Analytical Engine, a proposal for a clockwork counting machine which was conceived by English mathematician Charles Babbage. In 1842, Babbage went to the University of Turin to deliver a lecture on the Analytical Engine and notes were taken by an Italian mathematician, Luigi Menabrea.

MORE: Who was Ada Lovelace? All you need to know

Lovelace was asked by Babbage’s friend, inventor Charles Wheatstone, to translate Menabrea’s notes from French to English. She did a little more than that, however, expanding on the original writings three-fold and, crucially, describing an algorithm for the Analytical Engine to compute an established sequence of numbers. This made her the first ever computer programmer.

Unfortunately, the Analytical Engine was never completed, so there was no way to test Lovelace’s theory. However, her place in computing history was assured.

Lovelace may have had her own Google Doodle last year, to mark her 197th birthday, but she isn’t exactly spoken of in the same breath as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

Ada Lovelace Day is about shining the spotlight on her achievement and inspiring more women into careers in the technology sector.

‘She was the first computer programmer and also really the first person to understand what a computer could do – and this was at a time when there weren’t any computers,’ said Suw Charman-Anderson, social technologist and founder of Ada Lovelace Day.

‘She wrote what is essentially a computer program. She wrote a description of how the machine could be programmed using punched cards to calculate Bernoulli numbers, a complex series of numbers.

‘She broke the process for calculating the numbers down into small formulae and then she described how you would code those formulae into punched cards, so it could be worked out by the machine.

‘She understood that the Analytical Engine could actually be used given the right algorithms to create music or to create art. That was a massive leap because, at the time, Babbage was mainly thinking about big tables of numbers.’

Babbage must have known, however, that the translation would be in safe hands. He and Lovelace had long been friends and he was impressed by her mathematical prowess – he nicknamed her ‘The Enchantress of Numbers’.

Lovelace was born Augusta Ada Byron and was the daughter of the poet Lord Byron. Both died aged 36. But her short life was packed with incident. Byron left Ada’s mother a month after she was born, an event which had a huge bearing on her future. Her mother, Anne Isabella, wanted to steer Ada clear of the literary path followed by her father, turning her towards mathematics.

‘Women weren’t supposed to have an education but she was actually educated by some of the best minds of the era,’ said Charman-Anderson. ‘Her mother was very keen that Ada be schooled in maths and science. It was medication through mathematics.’

1510-lovelace-part-1

1510-lovelace-part-2

When she was 19, Ada married William King, a baron, who three years later became the Earl of Lovelace. She had three children, but was also the subject of rumours about extra-marital affairs. She also tried to use her maths knowledge to come up with a sure-fire formula for gambling, which only led her into debt. She died of uterine cancer in 1852 and was buried next to her father in Nottingham, as per her request.

It was another century until Lovelace would receive recognition, when World War II codebreaker Alan Turing referenced her work.

‘What is amazing is not just that she wrote a programme to calculate these numbers, but she did so without a working machine to test it on,’ said Charman-Anderson, adding that the Analytical Engine was a ‘bit of an evolutionary dead end’.

An evening of science cabaret will be held at Ada Lovelace Day Live at Imperial College London tonight, one of more than 30 events taking place across the world to commemorate the computer programmer.

With women making up only 17 per cent of the technology workforce in Britain, there is a hope that Lovelace could inspire the next generation of female computer whizzes. Belinda Parmar, chief executive of Lady Geek, which has organised the HER in Hero (#HERinHero) campaign, backed by more than 40 MPs, for Ada Lovelace Day, said: ‘We’re trying to inspire girls to change the world through technology. Female heroes are not celebrated in the way male heroes are in history and particularly in technology. Lots of people don’t know who these women are.’

The fact that computer science is so male-dominated makes it easy for Lovelace to be dismissed, said Charman-Anderson. While women are better placed today than 200 years ago, she said they still battle a ‘constant drip of dissuasion and discouragement’ to going into tech.

Lovelace is an inspiration, she said. ‘You can look at Ada’s work and say that there is a direct line through Turing to modern computer science. She is one of the key figures in the founding of computer science because she really had a grasp of what computers could do, long before they were even built, and it was unfortunate in a sense that she was born when she was. She was not just ahead of her time – she was 100 years ahead of her time.’


TOPICS: Books/Literature; Computers/Internet; History
KEYWORDS: adalovelaceday; computers; deepthroat; myopia; science; smashthepatriarchy; software

1 posted on 10/15/2013 3:08:58 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

OH! That Lovelace, I had to slow down and reread the title. I just knew it couldn’t be the other one.


2 posted on 10/15/2013 3:12:40 PM PDT by Mastador1 (I'll take a bad dog over a good politician any day!)
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To: Mastador1
Me?
3 posted on 10/15/2013 3:16:26 PM PDT by EEGator
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To: nickcarraway

Lovelace? Rings a bell, but I don’t think it had anything to do with computers...of course; the memory isn’t what it used to be...


4 posted on 10/15/2013 3:19:31 PM PDT by who knows what evil? (G-d saved more animals than people on the ark...www.siameserescue.org.)
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To: Mastador1

Have programed in Ada but I really hate to see programming broken down into gender when talking about who or what was the first program/programmer. It just keeps getting so gender related instead of just who or what was discovered - can’t we just agree that the discovery was great, whoever discovered or started the “thing”. Doubt that it will change though, too many invested in gender politics to ever let things go.

Really, does anyone care whether the inventor of anything was a man or woman? How about we just celebrate the inventor regardless of gender!


5 posted on 10/15/2013 3:20:33 PM PDT by Deagle (m)
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To: Mastador1
The first programmers were at work in 1801.

They set up patterns for the Jacquard loom to turn out complex patterns of cloth.

They even used punched cards to hold the program steps.

Ada Lovelace came much later.


6 posted on 10/15/2013 3:20:36 PM PDT by Bobalu (Bobo the Wonder Marxist leads Operation Rodeo Clown against Syria)
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To: nickcarraway

Good ol Ada.

Language of languages.


7 posted on 10/15/2013 3:23:14 PM PDT by Hardraade (http://junipersec.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/nicolae-hussein-obama/)
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To: nickcarraway
Good post.
Over the years, I've worked with six really good female code jockeys who immediately come to mind. All were left-handed.
8 posted on 10/15/2013 3:23:15 PM PDT by ComputerGuy (HM2/USN M/3/3 Marines RVN 66-67)
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To: EEGator

Whoa-ho Linda!


9 posted on 10/15/2013 3:25:53 PM PDT by NonValueAdded (Occupy the DC Mall - take back the monuments)
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To: EEGator; Deagle; Bobalu

Well EEgator I’m glad you saw the humor in my comment! Sometimes a chuckle is better than taking everything serious.


10 posted on 10/15/2013 3:27:17 PM PDT by Mastador1 (I'll take a bad dog over a good politician any day!)
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To: Mastador1

Agreed.


11 posted on 10/15/2013 3:29:41 PM PDT by EEGator
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To: ComputerGuy
This is the woman to hold up as an example of what a woman can do with computers.

Grace Hopper...all Navy and a great programmer/mathematician

Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an American computer scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral. A pioneer in the field, she was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, and developed the first compiler for a computer programming language.

12 posted on 10/15/2013 3:33:17 PM PDT by Bobalu (Bobo the Wonder Marxist leads Operation Rodeo Clown against Syria)
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To: nickcarraway

Bttt.


13 posted on 10/15/2013 3:37:19 PM PDT by Inyo-Mono (NRA)
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To: Bobalu

Grace Hopper on Youtube
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Grace+Hopper

The 10 minute Letterman appearance is good.


14 posted on 10/15/2013 3:40:47 PM PDT by Bobalu (Bobo the Wonder Marxist leads Operation Rodeo Clown against Syria)
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To: Bobalu

I saw her waving her nanosecond once on TV. She was a hoot. A geek with personality.


15 posted on 10/15/2013 3:44:43 PM PDT by ComputerGuy (HM2/USN M/3/3 Marines RVN 66-67)
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To: Bobalu

Didn’t she speak about nano seconds?


16 posted on 10/15/2013 3:47:31 PM PDT by Jane Long (While Marxists continue the fundamental transformation of the USA, progressive RINOs assist!)
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To: ComputerGuy

Ha! You got me by more than a nano second ;)


17 posted on 10/15/2013 3:48:24 PM PDT by Jane Long (While Marxists continue the fundamental transformation of the USA, progressive RINOs assist!)
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To: Jane Long

I think it’s about eleven inches. The nanosecond, that is.


18 posted on 10/15/2013 3:52:45 PM PDT by ComputerGuy (HM2/USN M/3/3 Marines RVN 66-67)
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To: Mastador1

I thought the same thing until I had to reread


19 posted on 10/15/2013 3:53:32 PM PDT by Patriot Babe
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To: Deagle

I agree to a point, but there really aren’t many female inventors or scientist.

It’s nice for technical women to have positive role models.

As a female software engineer, I like Ada Lovelace!


20 posted on 10/15/2013 4:04:00 PM PDT by luckystarmom
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To: nickcarraway

Ada, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell and me thank you...


21 posted on 10/15/2013 4:22:37 PM PDT by ExCTCitizen (Ben Carson/Rand Paul or Sara/Nikki in 2016)
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To: nickcarraway
She is one of the key figures in the founding of computer science because she really had a grasp of what computers could do, long before they were even built

Gender issues aside, a classmate once questioned why Boolean Algebra, used to optimize logic gates, was invented long before the existence of electronics or digital computers; my answer was that it served as a philosophical tool to systematize the finding of truth. It creates truth tables where contradictory statements are eliminated as false.
Kind of like the old lawyers' question: "Are you lying now or were you lying then?"

22 posted on 10/15/2013 4:30:04 PM PDT by stormhill (Guns Save Lives!)
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To: luckystarmom

I can understand you enthusiasm somewhat as I think that Stroustrup is a hero for C++ but I don’t celebrate him because he is a male. I celebrate the ingenuity of his mind and the result that became the standard language of today.

Yes, I understand your role model example but really would not girls be just as enthralled if she were exclaimed as the inventor of a programming language? Did they really have to point out her gender to make it more palatable? That is my point and my complaint. Too much PC in all things...


23 posted on 10/15/2013 4:55:11 PM PDT by Deagle (m)
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To: nickcarraway

She was actually Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace. Just like he was George Gordon, Lord Byron.


24 posted on 10/15/2013 5:00:51 PM PDT by IronJack (=)
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To: nickcarraway

A Fine book. Alternate history, Babbage's machine works and revolutionizes Victorian Britain. A key work in steampunk literature. Ada is a character (though minor, and more of a mcguffin).

25 posted on 10/15/2013 5:10:53 PM PDT by ClearCase_guy (21st century. I'm not a fan.)
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To: Hardraade
Good ol Ada.

Language of languages.

Huge, huge, huge disaster. General Short finally determined that Ada would live or die with Stanfins and Stanfins died BECAUSE of Ada. The End....

26 posted on 10/15/2013 5:36:38 PM PDT by varmintman
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To: Bobalu

That’s really fascinating.


27 posted on 10/15/2013 5:38:54 PM PDT by varmintman
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To: nickcarraway

I bet she could create a working website for $90 million


28 posted on 10/15/2013 5:41:38 PM PDT by AppyPappy (Obama: What did I not know and when did I not know it?)
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To: Hardraade

“Good ol Ada. Language of languages.”

Yeah, just like a woman, you can read her but you can’t understand what the Hell she’s saying! :)


29 posted on 10/15/2013 5:55:53 PM PDT by CodeToad (Liberals are bloodsucking ticks. We need to light the matchstick to burn them off. -786 +969)
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To: varmintman

They never gave Ada the proper implementation anchoring, and that was just one thing. She coulda been a contender :).


30 posted on 10/15/2013 7:09:44 PM PDT by Hardraade (http://junipersec.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/nicolae-hussein-obama/)
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To: Hardraade

The flaws were intrinsic and overwhelming. There was nothing anybody could have done to save the thing.


31 posted on 10/15/2013 8:33:15 PM PDT by varmintman
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