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Happy Birthday To Ada Lovelace, the First Computer Programmer 60

First time accepted submitter MrBeeudoublez writes "Honored by a Google Doodle, Ada Lovelace is the first computer programmer. From the article: 'Ada's life as a member of British society (first as the daughter of Lord Byron, and later as the wife of the Count of Lovelace), brought her into contact with Charles Babbage, whose concepts for mechanical calculating machines (early computers) she took a great interest in. Ultimately, her work on explaining Babbage's design for the Analytical Engine resulted in her being credited as the first true computer programmer in history, even if the computer she programmed for was not actually built until 2002.'"
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Happy Birthday To Ada Lovelace, the First Computer Programmer

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @06:10AM (#42248902)

    According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], the ancient Greek mathematician invented "a programmable cart that was powered by a falling weight. The "program" consisted of strings wrapped around the drive axle."

    This doesn't diminish Ada Lovelace's contributions at all, btw.

  • by MaxToTheMax ( 1389399 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @08:30AM (#42249480)
    Perhaps this *will* diminish Ada's contributions: http://www.answers.com/topic/ada-lovelace#Controversy_over_extent_of_contributions [answers.com] Choice quote: "Not only is there no evidence that Ada ever prepared a program for the Analytical Engine but her correspondence with Babbage shows that she did not have the knowledge to do so." The depressing lack of female role models in CS is a real problem, but revisionist history is not a valid solution.
  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @08:57AM (#42249646)

    The daughter of the world's leading romanticist becomes the world's first nerd.

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @10:35AM (#42250266) Homepage Journal

    Her contributions had a direct influence on how programming languages evolved.

    Hopper practically invented programming languages. Before her, all programming was done in machine code.

    In 1952 she had an operational compiler. "Nobody believed that," she said. "I had a running compiler and nobody would touch it. They told me computers could only do arithmetic."[

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @11:18AM (#42250627) Homepage Journal

    World's first nerd? Hardly. In the first place, the word "nerd" didn't exist until 1954 when Dr. Suess coined it in "If I Ran The Zoo".

    Second, you don't consider Newton to be a nerd? How about the guy who invented the wheel or agriculture or tamed fire? Those people were all nerds.

  • by cusco ( 717999 ) <brian.bixby@gma i l . c om> on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @11:59AM (#42251017)
    In Victorian society virtually everyone had affairs, you were considered marginally odd if you didn't. A lot of them were cheating with members of their same sex, but sex is still sex.
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @12:24PM (#42251245) Journal
    She was responsible for a lot more than that. She found the first computer bug, when she "...traced an error in the Mark II to a moth trapped in a relay. The bug was carefully removed and taped to a daily log book. Since then, whenever a computer has a problem, it's referred to as a bug." Here it is [navy.mil].
  • One huge difference.... Hopper actually wrote COBOL and put the concepts into practice by doing it.

    Sure, you could read the notes of some of the early theoreticians who played with the idea of computing theory line Von Neumann and Turing, but I give more cred to those who actually did the work.

    Ada Lovelace did precede the work by Konrad Zuse by nearly a century. Noting against Zuse, as he certainly did a whole lot to advance computing in the 20th century as well. Sometimes you need to go in baby steps until something actually happens, which is simply how scientific progress is made at all. If you've done something useful in this world with your life, it is that you've been able to explore the frontiers of human knowledge and perhaps contribute a little bit more knowledge to go just a little bit further.

  • by wall0159 ( 881759 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @07:33PM (#42255287)

    I'm not so sure about this.
    From "The Information", by Gleik:
    Her exposition took the form of notes lettered A through G, extending to nearly three times the length of Menabrea’s essay. They offered a vision of the future more general and more prescient than any expressed by Babbage himself. How general? The engine did not just calculate; it performed operations, she said, defining an operation as “any process which alters the mutual relation of two or more things,” and declaring: “This is the most general definition, and would include all subjects in the universe.” The science of operations, as she conceived it,
    "is a science of itself, and has its own abstract truth and value; just as logic has its own peculiar truth and value, independently of the subjects to which we may apply its reasonings and processes. One main reason why the separate nature of the science of operations has been little felt, and in general little dwelt on, is the shifting meaning of many of the symbols used."

    Symbols and meaning: she was emphatically not speaking of mathematics alone. The engine “might act upon other things besides number.” Babbage had inscribed numerals on those thousands of dials, but their working could represent symbols more abstractly. The engine might process any meaningful relationships. It might manipulate language. It might create music. “Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”

    It had been an engine of numbers; now it became an engine of information. A.A.L. perceived that more distinctly and more imaginatively than Babbage himself. She explained his prospective, notional, virtual creation as though it already existed:
    "The Analytical Engine does not occupy common ground with mere 'calculating machines'. It holds a position wholly its own. A new, a vast, and a powerful language is developed in which to wield its truths so that these may become of more speedy and accurate practical application for the purposes of mankind than the means hitherto in our possession have rendered possible. Thus not only the mental and the material, but the theoretical and the practical in the mathematical world, are brought into more intimate and effective connexion with each other."

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27