(I Missed!) Ada Lovelace Day

This is gorgeous, and it also makes me sad.

Sad because I didn’t hear of Ada Lovelace until I was in late high school, when we were reading Arcadia (scroll down). And then I heard about her a lot from my awesome tech-y friends in college, because that was the kind of college I went to (which is to say a women’s college.)

People tend to focus on the womanness of Ada Lovelace or her lineage (only non-bastard child of scary poet, Lord Byron!), which are all fine and good. (Actually, I am inclined to think that the womanness is more interesting/relevant than the father issue. Esp. since Babbage got all credit in the invention of computing, whereas, Lovelace mostly fell by the wayside as the first programmer.)

(God, this is totally off-topic, but Babbage was delightfully insane:

Babbage once contacted the poet Alfred Tennyson in response to his poem “The Vision of Sin”. Babbage wrote, “In your otherwise beautiful poem, one verse reads,

Every moment dies a man,
Every moment one is born.

… If this were true, the population of the world would be at a standstill. In truth, the rate of birth is slightly in excess of that of death. I would suggest [that the next version of your poem should read]:

Every moment dies a man,
Every moment 1 1/16 is born.

Strictly speaking, the actual figure is so long I cannot get it into a line, but I believe the figure 1 1/16 will be sufficiently accurate for poetry.

(Swade, Doron (2000). The Difference Engine. New York: Viking. p. 77, via Wikipedia)

(Wait, I am still not over that. Genius!)

Okay, though, see how Babbage steals Lovelace’s limelight? I’m going to guess that that is, in part, because the lives of women in the nineteenth century were lived much more in the private sphere than those of men.

But, I don’t think it is fair to think of her as only an inspiration to geeky women. I love the punch cards. I love the thought of people punching the cards by hand. But I most especially love the mind that got it first. And the first person who ever did it. “Enough theory! Time for some action!” /picks up needles/

Ada got it

Ada got it

(Of course, I know the military gave her props, naming their first standard programming language after her. Now that I think about it, the sad part might be that non-techies might not know why she is significant at all. Perhaps that is why I had no idea who she was, when I was avoiding computers as a teenager.)


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