Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

Countess Ada Lovelace, in 1852
By Henry Phillips (Wikimedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There's a little 'easter egg' in her honor in my Halcyone Space books in the character of Adiana (Ada) May. In the books, the historical creators of the AI source code are two scientists named Dauber & May. CHARLES Dauber & ADA May. These were deliberate choices to echo the roles of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace in early computing. 

In my fiction, Dauber did more of the hardware work and May, the software - in homage to Babbage & Lovelace and their roles - Babbage created the physical difference engine and Lovelace grasped its applications. 

So who was Ada Lovelace, you ask? An excellent question!

Augusta Ada Lovelace was born in 1815, the daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron and Lady Anne Isabella Milbanke Byron. Her parents separated just a few weeks after Ada was born and her mother had her educated in science and mathematics as a way to avoid what she saw as her former husband's instability.

As a young woman, Ada Lovelace met Charles Babbage and he became her mentor. Ada seemed to have an intuitive grasp of the possibilities of Babbage's Analytical Engine and in a translation of a scientific paper on Babbage's work from the French, she added notes that more than doubled the original text.

"In her notes, Ada described how codes could be created for the device to handle letters and symbols along with numbers. She also theorized a method for the engine to repeat a series of instructions, a process known as looping that computer programs use today. Ada also offered up other forward-thinking concepts in the article. For her work, Ada is often considered to be the first computer programmer."  From Ada Lovelace: Biography

While this doesn't seem radical to anyone who's played around with computer programs, remember, Lovelace wrote this in 1843.


Her work was essentially lost until the 1950s, but she's now recognized as the first programmer, so the next time you sit down in front of your computer, thank Ada. 

10 Things You Might Not Know About Ada Lovelace
Ada Lovelace: The First Tech Visionary
How a poet's daughter created the concept of software



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