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Introduction to Women In Tech History - Ada Lovelace

Technology, Culture

By JoJo Salazar

“When [women] have been written out of the history, [girls] don’t have great role models. But when you learn about the women who programmed ENIAC or Grace Hopper or Ada Lovelace … it happened to my daughter. She read about all these people when she was in high school, and she became a math and computer science geek.”

-Walter Isaacson

While the tech industry is innovative and progressive, when it comes to women in tech, the industry is still considered male-driven. But what many people don’t realize, women made many contributions to technology are often left out in textbooks.

Did you know that the first programers weren’t men, and the first computers weren’t machines. In both cases, they were women.

We all recognize famous names like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates but do Ada Lovelace, Carol Shaw, or Grace Hopper Ring a bell?

*Crickets in the room* Yep...I thought so!

Our world would be a different place without the contributions of women in technology.

I’ve decided to revisit history and highlight some unsung women in tech that changed the world we live in.

Will you join me in my series of women of the past? Okay, well c'mon lets dive in!

In today's blog post I want to focus on Ms. Ada LoveLace, AKA the World's First Computer Programmer, yes... you heard right!  Ada was born on December 10th, 1815. She was the daughter of Lord Byron, a famous poet.

Most well known for her work on the "mechanical general purpose computer", Ada realized the power of a machine do calculate, and with that she developed the first algorithm (a basic set of instructions).

Bittersweet her contribution as now,  every Facebook ad, Twitter feed, and Pinterest recommendation has an algorithm thats designed to keep users using! Thanks to Ada, companies use algorithms to help tailor our feeds with things we like also causing a slippery slope of polarization.

Growing up, Lovelace's mother imposed a strict diet of mathematics and science. Ada's mother feared that her fathers tempestuous character would rub off on her, so she had her tutored in music and mathematics, in hopes to counter any teancencies torward become a poet.

Her teachers pushed her so hard, because of their belief in her abilities, that she often suffered migraines that impaired her vision. Ada would suddenly come down with mysteries chronic illness, psychosomatic some say that, would interrupt her education. When she was 14, she had every strong "attack" and was left unable to walk for almost three years.

Lovelace proved to her peers and men of the time that women, too, were capable of solving difficult mathematical applications.

Lovelace had three children but that didn't stop her active interest in study and she was often found socializing in intellectual circles with the likes of Charles Dickens and Michael Faraday.

In 1843, Lovelace was encouraged by her husband to assist her friend and Mentor Charles Babbage, known as the father of the computer, on a project called "The Analytical Engine." Ada met Babagge at a lecture when she was 18 years of age. Babbage developed the idea for the mechanical calculator AKA the Difference Engine.

While she was translating Italian engineer Luigi Meneabrea's lecture notes from French to English, she found numerous errors. The translation took nine months of hard work.

Expanding on the original footnotes she states “The Analytical Engine has no pretentions whatever to originate anything."

“It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform. It can follow analysis; but it has no power of anticipating any analytical relations or truths. Its province is to assist us in making available what we are already acquainted with.”

Ada's presentation to Babbage was three times longer than the original article she analyzed.

Within her notes, Ada wrote what are considered the first ever computer algorithms to be used in a new type of machine.

Ada embraced the vision Babbage had of creating a thinking machine. Her groundbreaking discovery showed that this machine could solve mathematical problems and print the results.

It wasn't until the 1950s that Ada's work was brought back to life and republished.

Sadly, she didn't receive the recognition she deserved. However, Lovelace has recieved poshumurous awards and in 1979 the United States Department of Defense named a programming language "Ada" in her honor.

Ada's contributions are just one of many that were a century ahead of their time...stay tuned for our next pioneer!

TAGS: Technology, Culture

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