Reminder: The First Computer Programmer Was A Woman

By Damon Beres for the Huffington Post

UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 27: Watercolour portrait by Alfred Edward Chalon of Ada King wearing evening dress with a mantilla and holding a fan. Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852) was the daughter of the great Romantic poet Lord Byron (1788-1824). She was a writer and a trained mathematician. King acquired fame by working with Charles Babbage (1791-1871) on the world's first computer, the ?Analytical Engine?, which could carry out many different types of calculations. She designed several computer programmes for the engine which were coded onto cards with holes punched in them - thus becoming the world's first computer programmer. The universally recognised computer language ADA is named after her. Dimensions: 250mm x 183mm. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

This is Ada King, the countess of Lovelace. In 1843 she composed the basis for what many call the first computer program.

As the story goes, Lovelace  entered into correspondence with inventor Charles Babbage after meeting him at a party. The two eventually discussed Babbage’s idea for an “analytical engine”  — essentially a computer that could use an algorithm to shape its output — and Lovelace is credited with greatly expanding on and refining the concept.

In a sense, she pioneered the idea of a computer algorithm. As biography.com puts it:

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.

There are a couple of things worth taking from this 19th-century story.

First and most obviously: Any time someone suggests that women are less inclined toward pursuits like technology and mathematics, you can immediately shoot them down. (And probably never talk to them again, because it’s simply a conversation that shouldn’t happen in the first place.)

But this is also a story of collaboration.

Read more here.

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