The First Computer Programmer – Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace was born two centuries ago in London, England. Her father was the super famous poet Lord Byron. Though he was brilliant, he also had the reputation for being a “mad genius.” He abandoned his family early on. Ada’s mother was also incredibly smart, and she insisted her daughter get the best education possible. Ada had a team of private tutors who taught her mathematics and science. As it turned out, Ada was an exceptional math wizard from a young age. She was so skilled with numbers that people called her a human calculating machine!

Ada Lovelace Charles Babbage

When she was 18 years old, her world changed. She met Charles Babbage, a mathematics professor from Cambridge University. The two became instant buddies. They would chat for hours about complex mathematical problems. They were quite the dynamic duo! Except that most people couldn’t understand what they were talking about…

Babbage often rambled on about one of his fantastical ideas. He dreamt of creating a machine that could make calculations. It was called the ‘Analytical Engine.’ Babbage wrote papers and papers jam-packed with notes. He made some designs and started trying to build it.

Ada was fascinated. She believed the machine could do more than even Babbage imagined. She felt it could solve far more complicated calculations. Night after night, she wrote her own notes. She also predicted that one day these computing machines would be able to create multi-layered graphics and music.

And then on one fateful night in 1843, POW! Like a bolt of lightning, it all came together. As Ada scribbled furiously, she had a sudden inspiration. She knew it could be done! Ada successfully developed an algorithm that would make the Analytical Engine perform complicated calculations.

 

Colossus was the first electronic digital programmable computing device, and was used to break German ciphers during World War II. Credit_The national archives (UK)

As Amazing as it would have been, the Analytical Engine was never built. Charles Babbage had some money problems and Ada got really sick. Sadly, she died at a young age. But – 100 years after her death – Ada’s notes were discovered. That’s when her hard work and abilities were recognized. She is credited as the world’s first computer programmer. And as we know, her predictions about how awesome computers would be were accurate.

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