Yvonne Carts-Powell

Heroes of Science: Ada Lovelace, first computer programmer

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 at 12:55 pm

  • The first computer programmer was a mathematician.
  • The first computer programmer was a scientist.
  • The first computer programmer was a translator.
  • The first computer programmer was a mother.

Also, the first computer programmer lived and died a century before the invention of the solid-state transistor. Ada Lovelace was also the daughter of Lord Byron, and died at the age of 36. Today is Ada Lovelace Day.

Why does it matter that we remember Ada? Because we live in a society where someone thought it was appropriate to program a Barbie doll to say, “Math is hard!”. Because my friend the CS professor says that she has no women (none at all!) in her classes last semester. Because (with a few notable exceptions, like Dreamwidth), the open software movement is dramatically skewed towards men, to the exclusion of women. Because it’s easy to forget that “calculator” used to be a job title, for a job often held by women working in astronomy.

We are tool-using animals, and the ability to manipulate tools gives us power.

Women wrote the first novels, wrote the first computer programs, and developed poker. Remember that.

By the way, Finding Ada website now has lovely t-shirts available, commemorating her life and accomplishments.

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