Retro Computing News

Happy 200th birthday Ada!

Watercolor portrait of Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (Ada Lovelace), 1840

Today is a day which should not only inspire women to an interest in computing, but a day which we should all celebrate as having a direct link to the modern world which surrounds us in 2015 – the 200th anniversary of the birth of the legendary Ada Lovelace.

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852), was the English daughter of a brief marriage between the famous Romantic poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabelle Milbanke, who separated from Byron just a month after Ada was born. Four months later, Byron left England forever. Ada never met her father (who died in Greece in 1823) and was raised by her mother, Lady Byron.

Trial model of a part of the Analytical Engine, built by Babbage, as displayed at the London Science Museum (pic Bruno Barral/Wikipedia)
Programming pioneer

Ada was a brilliant mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on mathematician Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.  Ada met Babbage in 1833, when she was just 17, and they began an extensive correspondence on the topics of mathematics, logic, and ultimately all subjects, including his designs for the Engine. They became lifelong friends.

Her notes on the Analytical Engine include what is now recognised as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. Because of this, she is often regarded as the first computer programmer.  The computer programming language, ADA, was named in her honour in 1979. Based on the language PASCAL, ADA is a general-purpose language designed to be readable and easily maintained.

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Happy Birthday, Ada!