Ada Lovelace the Computer Visionary
Was Ada Lovelace the First Computer Programer? Who Wrote the First Computer
Program?British mathematician Ada Lovelace can be considered the mother of computerprograming, as she wrote the first complex algorithm meant to be carried outby a machine. However, it is a myth that Ada Lovelace wrote “the firstcomputer program” or was “the first computer programmer,” that title belongsto “the father of the Computer” Charles Babbage (who himself built off thework of Pascal, Leibnitz, and Müller, just as Turing would build of all theirwork later to help create the first digital computers).VIDEOCalculating Ada: the Countess of Computing. A clip from a documentary by theBBC which accounts for Ada’s actual role in computing as well as the researchof Doron Swade a computer historian whose focus is Babbage, and who showedthat Babbage technically wrote the first computer program.FACT: The ancient Greek device, the Antikythera mechanism (circa 200 – 100BC), is generally considered to be the world’s oldest known mechanical analogcomputer. The history of non-digital computing stretches back far beyondLovelace and Babbage, but modern computing starts with them… on-paper atleast.
Comparing the Programs of Lovelace and Babbage
As noted above, Ada Lovelace wrote one of the first computer programs in 1842,but her mentor Charles Babbage wrote the first program in 1836. Let’s comparethese programs. * Ada’s program is a set of notes on Luigi Federico Menabrea’s “Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage, Esq.”, showing how Charles Babbage’s theoretical Analytical Engine could calculate Bernoulli numbers using punch cards (see the image below). * Meanwhile, Babbage’s notes (containing about 24 programs) are similar, but simpler and sometimes error-prone algorithms (see a detailed breakdown and comparison of Babbage’s and Lovelace’s work; note that we don’t have an image to prove his code, we are relying on computer historians who have studied Babbage and Lovelace).Due to the supposed simplicity of Babbage’s notes (produced between 1836 and1837), and the confirmable complexity and of Lovelace’s Bernoulli numberprogram contained in Note G of her Notes (produced between 1842 and 1843),Lovelace is often regarded as the first computer programmer, and thus theinternet is filled with headlines like, “In 1842, Ada Lovelace Wrote theWorld’s First Computer Program“.The problem is of course, that this version of the story omits Babbage’sprograms written years before Ada’s similar, but more complex,program.VIDEOThis video from SciShow discusses Ada Lovelace had her contributions tocomputing.TIP: Articles like this: Crowdsourcing Gender Equity Ada Lovelace Day, and itscompanion website, aims to raise the profile of women in science andtechnology are a pushback against the old days where most of the credit wentto Babbage (as he was a man)… Still, we can only imagine Ada herself would beannoyed with us mischaracterizing her partnership with Babbage. She deservescredit for Note. G (despite everyone else working on the project), but her1842 work can’t reasonably be put before Babbage’s 1836-1837 work).FACT: Ada Lovelace was the daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron (why she issometimes called “the Lady of Lovelace”, for instance by Alan Turing). Ada andLord Byron were aristocracy, as was Babbage.FACT: Charles Babbage can be considered to be the “father of the computer” dueto his work in early theoretical and real computers. Babbage, sometimes withthe help of protege Lovelace, is credited with inventing the first mechanicalcomputer (Difference Engine 1822),”the first general-purpose computer”(Analytical Engine 1837), and originating the concept of the programmablecomputer. We can see why a story that downplays Charles is just as troublesomeas one that downplays Ada when we take a good look at the accomplishments ofthe dynamic duo.FACT: Between 1842 and 1843, Ada translated an article by Italian militaryengineer Luigi Menabrea (whom also deserves a nod) on Babbage’s Engine, whichshe supplemented with an elaborate set of notes, simply called Notes. Thesenotes contain what many consider to be the first computer program, analgorithm designed to be carried out by a machine. Lovelace then did what noone else would for years, she speculated that “computers” could be used formore than just calculations, examining how individuals and society relate totechnology as a collaborative tool (what she called “poetical science”). Whileher title of “first computer programmer” is debated, her title of “computervisionary”, “poetical scientist”, and early programmer is not.
The First Complex Computer Program: Ada’s Note G. Program
Ada Lovelace wrote one of the first executable computer programs for CharlesBabbage’s machine (see examples of Babbage’s earlier work here). Ada’s programon Note G., the one claimed to be the “first computer program”, looks likethis:Ada Lovelace’s notes. Considered by some to be the first computer program everwritten. A computation engine for Bernoulli Numbers. Note G.FACT: The first analog computer is from around 200 BC, it is called theAntikythera Mechanism. Facts like this are useful to remember when trying tonitpick the story of computer firsts in the 1800’s. There were also mechanicalcalculators long before Babbage’s machines. Pascal made one in 1642, and wenow know there was even one in antiquity.
The Story of Ada and Babbage: The History of the First Computer Program
Ada Byron was a longtime friend of Cambridge mathematics professor CharlesBabbage.Babbage invented the Difference Engine in 1822 (based on an idea by J. H.Müller written down in 1786). The Difference Engine was a theoreticalmechanical computer designed to automatically produce error free tables ofnumbers (something that was historically difficult to do). Although it would be built in 1985, the Difference Engine was never built byBabbage in his time.By 1834 Babbage switched his focus to a new project, the Analytical Engine.The Analytical Engine is today considered “the first general purposecomputer”. The Analytical Engine was designed to use punch cards for input andoutput (just like computers would 100 years later). The above said, Babbage was never able to build his Analytical Engine either.He was, however, able to give speeches on how it would work in theory.In 1842 Ada annotated a speech, by her now long time friend Charles Babbage,about the Analytical Engine.Ada was ambitious and wanted to show how the machine could calculate moreconceptual things like Bernoulli numbers (Babbage had thought of the machineas more of a super-powered calculator). Her notes ended up being longer thanBabbage’s speech, and the final notes included, among other things, (inSection G) a detailed method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers.It was proved nearly 100 years later that her error-free notes worked inpractice, not just theory, and thus contained what would later be described(somewhat erroneously) as the world’s first computer program.VIDEOComputer Pioneers: Pioneer Computers Part 1.FACT: A working version of Babbage’s Difference Engine was constructed in1985–2002  proving his machines worked. This makes Babbage the creator ofthe first general purpose computer.
Ada Lovelace, the Computer Visionary
To touch on the above point again, one of the most important aspects ofLovelace is her vision of what computers could do (and not her program).Lovelace started a line of thinking that showed computers can do more thanjust calculate numbers. Lovelace suggested that the Engine “might act uponother things besides number… the Engine might compose elaborate and scientificpieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent”. The idea of a machinethat could manipulate symbols in accordance with rules, and that number couldrepresent entities other than quantity, marks the fundamental transition fromcalculation to computation in computer history. Later Alan Turning would citeLovelace in his famous paper on “can machines think?“.Despite the proper story being a little more complicated and a little lessromantic than the one that places Ada as “literally the first computerprogrammer” and Babbage as the analytical and mistake prone old Codger whoLovelace danced creative circles around, the actual story is equally asimportant and highlights the importance of teamwork rather than individualgreatness.In the end, Ada’s program, and Babbage’s machine, represent huge leaps forwardin computing technology.FACT: Neither Charles or Ada’s program wasn’t executable until over 100 yearslater (as actual computers didn’t exist yet). Babbage’s machines weren’t builtuntil the late 1900’s (the Analytical Engine has never been built, but aproject is in the works). Today we have proved that Babbage’s theoreticalcomputers worked (meaning he invented the general-purpose computer) and thatLovelace’s programs worked (meaning she was one of the first, if not thefirst, to write a fully executable computer program). With that said, both areimportant to the history of computing for more than just being “the first” atsomething.FACT: Today we celebrate Ada Lovelace Day to remember her contribution tocomputer science, and importantly, we remember Charles Babbage (andtheoretical computers in general) along with her. 
Lovelace, Babbage, Multiple Discovery, and the First Computer Program – Who
Deserves Credit?As noted above, history is a little fuzzy on who should be credited with whatin the Babbage / Lovelace relationship. Below are some more considerations tothink about when trying to figure out who deserves credit for what.Ada’s notes contain a complex “computer program” that is still executabletoday, making her a good candidate for “first programmer”, but If we are beingliteral, she was predated by Babbage’s more rudimentary coding attempts fromyears before.One has to consider that Babbage was detailing his theoretical machines in hisnotebooks before he even met Lovelace, meaning he really couldn’t have helpedbut to write the first bits of code (overly simple and full of errors, or not)years before Lovelace’s Notes.Generally, with most inventions, it is rare that one person invents something.Rather things tend to be invented simultaneously and independently with themost famous of the inventors being given credit for the invention.Lovelace and Babbage both deserve credit in the creation of what could beconsidered the world’s first computer program (and let us not forget Menabrea,Babbage’s assistants, and the other Italians who worked with them).With this in mind, Ada Lovelace herself is certainly not mis-credited with thetitle of world’s first computer programer by many measures, it is only thatthe overly simple title really doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.It is likely today we would consider Babbage and Lovelace a team, like Jobsand Woz, each with different skills that led to an important technologicalachievement.Furthermore it is important to recognize the other uncredited people wholikely wrote code in and around the same time (remember Babbage and Lovelacewere semi-famous aristocracy of sort in their time, more like a Turing or anEinstein).All this to say, “Ada Lovelace created the first complex computer program, butshe wasn’t the first computer programmer, that was the father of the computerCharles Babbage, her friend and partner”. Lovelace is important for lots ofthings, including her visionary approach to computing, and there isn’t reallya need to confuse her story for those who want to explore her character,accomplishments, and times.VIDEOTED – Ada Lovelace – YouTube. This video explains the history of Babbage, theAnalytical Engine, and Ada’s code. It is a talk given by the guy heading theproject to build the Analytical Engine, so it is a smart one to watch.FACT: Both Babbage and Lovelace have earlier work pertaining to the AnalyticalEngine and Difference Engine 1 & 2. They both spent their careercontemplating these theoretical computers like Pascal had done before them.FACT: The Analytical Engine is a theoretical computer, the ENIAC is the firstworking electronic general-purpose computer.Top 10 inspirational programmersRobert Martin once claimed that programmers rule the world. He has a point:without programmers, there would be no software. And without software, theworld as we know it today would cease to function.Programmers have made our modern lifestyles possible – but few people fullyunderstand the extent to which they have shaped society.Here, we pay homage to 10 inspirational programmers. They may not all behousehold names, but their influence will have made its way into your homes.* * *
Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace
Charles Babbage began creation of a prototype machine he called ‘TheAnalytical Engine’ in 1837. Because it was possible to change the processesthe machine ran by changing input instructions, it was the first device toearn the name ‘computer’. It was revolutionary as an idea, but sadly notcompleted before his death.A friend of Babbage, Ada Lovelace was the mathematician that created the firstcomputer program, and thus became the first computer programmer. Had themachine been completed, Ada’s code would have worked.* * *
Ada’s love to mathematics and her admiration for the scientist Mary Somervilleled to a meeting of Charles Babbage and herself in 1833, which was to changeher life critically. Babbage had published a paper on his famous differenceengine about 10 years earlier, a calculating machine designed to tabulatepolynomial functions. Augusta Ada Byron was highly interested in CharlesBabbage’s work and especially in his machine, which many scientists weretalking about. After some scientific debates with Babbage, he was deeply inlove with her writing abilities as well as her mathematical skills, whereforehe called her the ‘enchantress of numbers‘. Augustus De Morgan, professor atUniversity College London, who himself made fundamental contributions to thedevelopment of mathematical logic, had a major influence on her latereducation and on her main work – the Notes. Lovelace took lessons with himfrom 1841 on his own initiative. At the age of 19 Ada Byron married WilliamKing, 8th Baron King, who in 1838 became the 1st Earl of Lovelace. He, too,had a mathematical education and, since women were forbidden to enterlibraries and universities at that time, had himself accepted into the RoyalSociety for her sake, where he copied articles for her.
Ada’s Notes on the Analytical Engine
Ada’s ascent to being a recognized scientist was hard due to her family’spublic attention as well as to the fact that women in science and technologywere still rare in the middle of the 19th century. Still, her chance came withBabbage’s publication of the ‘analytical engine’, a successor of the prior‘difference engine’ and the very first general purpose programmable mechanicalcomputer. In 1843 she translated the description of Babbages AnalyticalEngine, written in French by the Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea, intoEnglish. Encouraged by Babbage, she added her own notes and reflections on theconstruction of this planned machine adding numerous notes explaining andcommenting the machine’s function. Ada’s notes turned out being longer thanthe original work itself, because most scientists were not able to understandthe difference between the two machines of Babbage.
Programming the Analytical Engine
Ada also explained an algorithm for calculating a sequence of Bernoullinumbers with the new machine, wherefore she is now mostly known for being theworld’s first computer programmer. Many scholars belief that Babbage must havewritten programs for the Analytical Engine beforehand. However, Ada Lovelace’sprogram was the first published computer program. As many researchers readAda’s work over the years, they recognized her being even more visionary thanBabbage himself. Babbage’s machine was never built during his lifetime. On theone hand, precision mechanics had not yet been developed far enough to producethe machine parts with the necessary precision; on the other hand, the BritishParliament refused to finance Babbage’s research programme, having alreadysupported the development of its predecessor – the Difference Engine – with17,000 British pounds (a value of around 3.4 million British pounds in 2014).Unfortunately, Ada was recognized for her work only over a century after thefirst publication, when the engine was proven to be an early model of thecomputer.Lovelace’s diagram from Note G, the first published computer algorithm
The Death and Burial of the First Computer Programmer
During her final illness, Ada contacted Col. Wildman asking if she could beburied next to her father in the Byron vault at Hucknall Torkard church. Shewrote “…. Yes, I will be buried there; not where my mother can join me, but bythe side of him who so loved me, and whom I was not taught to love.”The Countess of Lovelace, Ada Byron, finally succumbed to cancer in November1852 and was buried, as she had wished, in the Byron vault next to herfather’s remains on 3rd December 1852. She is commemorated with a plaque onthe wall of the church. She is also immortalised in the name of a computerprogramming language devised in 1979 and called ADA in her honour.Who was, biography, analytical machine, contributions, phrasesInformatics
The analytical machine designed by the British mathematician Charles Babbagehad the purpose of calculating numerical differences in order to obtain tablesof numbers that would allow programs to be executed and any type ofcalculation to be carried out. Unfortunately, the idea of Babbage could not berealized at the time because he did not have the financial resources andmaterials to develop his invention.Interested in Babbage’s invention, Ada analyzed in detail the use of thismachine for mathematical calculations. This is how the mathematics managed tooptimize the design of the Babbage machine including the use of punched cardsand a programming language with logarithms to be processed by the analyticalmachine.