December 10, 2012
Ada Lovelace's 197th Birthday
Augusta Ada King, countess of Lovelace, along with her counterpart Charles Babbage, were pioneers in computing long before the first computer was built. Despite being an uncommon pedagogy for women, Ada was educated in mathematics because her mother hoped would mitigate in Ada her father's, Lord Byron's, penchant for poetry and mania (it didn’t).
While Babbage drew up designs for the first general-purpose computer, which he called the Analytic Engine, he only imagined it would be a powerful calculator. Lovelace, however, anticipated the much more impressive possibilities for such a machine. She realized the engine could represent not just numbers, but generic entities like words and music. This intellectual leap is the foundation of how we experience computers today, from the words on this screen to the colors and shapes in this doodle.
In 1843, Ada published extensive notes on the Analytic Engine which included the first published sequence of operations for a computer, which she would have input to the Analytic Engine using punch cards. It is this program for calculating Bernoulli numbers which leads some to consider Ada Lovelace the world’s first computer programmer, as well as a visionary of the computing age.
Posted by Ida Mayer, Googler