Thursday, December 10, 2015

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)

Back in my teens I had ordered my first computer, a TRS-80 from Radio Shack, and I grew anxious in the weeks before it arrived. I learned the basics of BASIC and started writing programs on paper ready to be typed into this new machine. Imagine though if I had to wait not just a few weeks but over a hundred years. Such was the fate of Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, born two hundred years ago today.

Ada, daughter of the poet Lord Byron, showed an early talent in mathematics. At age 17 she became a friend of Charles Babbage, inventor of the difference engine and proposed a more complex analytic engine. Babbage gave a talk at the University of Turin and Ada had the task of translating an article written by Italian engineer Luigi Menabrea based on the talk. Ada did more than just translate, she added her own thoughts which included a program that could be run on the analytic engine computing a specific sequence of numbers. The analytic engine never got built and Ada never saw her program run but nevertheless she gets credit as the first computer programmer and most notably in 1980 the US Department of Defense named their preferred computer language "Ada" in her honor.

Here's to Lady Ada Lovelace, born way too far ahead of her time.


  1. I wish they would have named a language that is more popular after her. Here is a list of langs ranked by popularity:

    Prog Lang named after people:
    Ada, Pascal, Haskell (Haskell Curry's first name.
    I once heard that Python was named after Monty Python.

  2. They could rename Ada as "Pascal++" (it can be seen as an object-oriented version of Pascal) and then rename "R" to be Ada.

    Also, probably a better ranking of languages at