After Ada

One hundred years after Ada Lovelace – the visionary who imagined ‘the analytical engine’ – the field of software development and the opportunities for women have greatly changed.  Ada was born an aristocrat – the daughter of the poet Lord Byron in fact – and as an aristocrat had the opportunity to study, write, experience travel and books and food that many of her contemporaries could not.  Today, many of us non-aristocrats have those same opportunities that I would like to explore in this blog:

  • Travel
  • Books
  • Food &  Wine
  • Healthy Lifestyle
  • Social Commentary
  • Oh, and that coding thing…

There also remains progress to be made and things to accomplish which I also hope to explore.  In the meantime, some of the reasons I’m an Ada fan:

Pushed Into Mathematics But Remained a Poet

Ada’s mother was afraid she would follow in the footsteps of her father Lord Byron so pushed her to study logic and mathematics.  Despite this Ada had a tendency to describe technical matters with a sense of poetry.  Her description of the future computer:

“We may say most aptly that the Analytical Machine weaves algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.”

She envisioned the airplane after studying the flight of birds when she was only twelve

Not only did she illustrate plans but wrote to her mother: “I have got a scheme to make a thing in the form of a horse with a steam engine in the inside so contrives as to move an immense pair of wings, fixed on the outside of the horse, in such a manner as to carry it up into the air while a person sits on its back.”

She predicted computers would be able to do more than just crunch numbers

Lovelace wrote that the analytical engine “might act upon other things besides number, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations…”  I have to wonder how she would react to seeing how we can now manipulate music, photos, text, etc.

She took her lumps

Lovelace and her mentor Charles Babbage were often seen passing a book back and forth.  Turns out this book was a ‘program’ to predict the outcome of horse races. Apparently programs could be just as buggy then as today because she once lost 3,200 pounds on one horse race.

Friend of Charles Dickens

As she was dying of uterine cancer her friend Charles Dickens visited her on her death bed and read a scene from is novel ‘Dombey and Son’ where 6-year-old Paul Dombey dies.

She has a computer language named after her

In the 1970s, the U.S. Department of Defense wanted a new computer programming language to replace the hundreds of different ones then in use by the military. When U.S. Navy Commander Jack Cooper suggested naming the new language “Ada” in honor of Lovelace in 1979, the proposal was unanimously approved. Ada is still used around the world today in the operation of real-time systems in the aviation, health care, transportation, financial, infrastructure and space industries.

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