Remembering Ada Lovelace—an inspiration for women programmers everywhere

With Women's Day just around the corner, HackerEarth wants to celebrate Ada for her amazing intellect and for laying the foundation for the world of programming, a world that binds all us developers together.

Here’s a short post on the life of Ada Lovelace, who remains “a powerful symbol for modern women in technology.”

Little did most people in 1951 (when the first commercial computer was built) imagine how pervasive sneaky machines called computers would become in their everyday lives. There’s no point in trying to imagine a life without computers, is there? And, you have thousands of programming languages, depending on the task, telling computers what to do. Today, the world is grappling and experimenting with amazing concepts such as artificial intelligence and other technologies of tomorrow.

Ada, the world’s first programmer

Born in 1815 in London, Augusta Ada King née Byron is considered the world’s first modern computer programmer by most people. In the late 1880s, she wrote an algorithm for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. A highly skilled mathematician, she was born nearly a century before the first prototype of the modern-day computer was built, but she is still regarded as a pioneer in programming.

How she defied the limitations of her time…and became a visionary

Her childhood in Victorian England could well be the stuff of bestsellers…her father, whom she never met, was the famous poet Lord Byron, who had quite a ‘scandalous’ reputation; her mother, Annabelle Milbanke, a skilled mathematician, left Byron, taking Ada along; Annabelle was supposedly rather strict with little Ada. Ada had a long and fruitful association with Charles Babbage, the father of the modern computer. At a time when women were considered intellectually inferior, Ada had advanced schooling in mathematics and science thanks to her mother. She was married to the Earl of Lovelace and had three children. Her personal life was also rumored to quite interesting.

She was Byron’s daughter, and this poetic skill you can see in her words about the Babbage’s Analytical Engine: It weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves. Such a great mind she had because she foresaw how art and music could be influenced by “computers.”

In 1843, Ada translated Luigi Menabrea’s article in French on Babbage’s plans for a new theoretical machine (Analytical Engine) into a paper that was three times longer than the original; she had added her own notes that formed the basis of complex capabilities of machines, and enabled them to interpret symbols apart from numbers. She also conceptualized a way in which a set of instructions can be repeated, which is known as looping.

Underrated programming language

Ada wrote an elaborate and complete “program” to compute Bernoulli numbers on the Analytic Engine.

She had poor health, with a bout of cholera, asthma, digestive problems, and so on until she, sadly, died of uterine cancer at the young age of 36. How inspiring it is that her health constraints never demotivated her.


The Enchantress of Numbers continues to be a role model for women

Babbage called Ada the Enchantress of Numbers. Her legacy has been controversial, with many uncharitable accounts of her insights that took her from a calculator to a computer. She came out of the forgotten history books in the 1980s, with one school of thought calling her brilliant and another brushing her off as insignificant.

It doesn’t matter because the world recognizes and celebrates her achievements on the second Tuesday every October; it is Ada Lovelace Day!

The world is still talking about her. Women in STEM look up to her as their role model. Read more here.

Ada, the programming language

Programming languages and coding form the foundation of computing. In the early 1980s, a programming language, Ada (named after Ada Lovelace) for large-scale programming was developed for the US Department of Defense.

Originally intended for embedded systems programming, Ada’s built-in features directly support object-oriented, structured, distributed, generic, and concurrent programming. Its features include strong typing, exception handling, real-time support, standard libraries, numeric computing, and interfaces to some languages. What makes Ada a great language is that it helps you design reliable and safe code, decrease development costs, and develop portable and readable code.

Ada 83 was enhanced to Ada 95 and then a decade later, came the Ada 2005 revised version. The default mode is Ada 2012. Ada, an internationally standardized multifaceted language, is used for high-integrity and safety-critical tasks in commercial aviation, railroad systems, banking systems, computer-aided design, and manufacturing.

If you find this post inspiring, why don’t you register for HackerEarth's International Women's Hackathon in March 2017 and honor the countess who was a century ahead of her time?

About the Author

Smriti Tuteja
Smriti is a content freak who loves anything tech. At HackerEarth, you can find her educating everyone about the latest happenings in the tech industry, sometimes against their will.