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  • Lara Urteaga

Ada Lovelace

The First Computer Programmer

Nearly 100 years before the first modern computer was invented in 1940, Ada Lovelace, also known as the Enchantress of Numbers, published the first computer program and designs that would lead to the creation of the computer.

From a young age, Lovelace was encouraged to study the sciences and mathematics by her mother. Her mother's emphasis on her education in the sciences was rooted in a fear that her daughter would follow in the footsteps of her father, Lord Byron, who was an exceptional poet and leader in the romantic movement, but who also possessed an extremely unstable personality that led him to abandon his family and leave Britain. Thus, her mother believed that if her daughter was to pursue poetry, her risk of becoming unstable would increase.

At a party in 1833, Lovelace befriended Charles Babbage, a professor of mathematics at Cambridge University. Lovelace and Babbage began a correspondence in which they discussed mathematics, logic, and other subjects. In the 1840s Babbage began developing the Analytical Engine, a machine that would be able to compute operations and would be now considered a general-purpose computer. Lovelace contributed to the project by translating and expanding the article of an Italian scientist. Her expansions were in the form of appendixes that are now considered the first computer program since they contained detailed instructions on how the machine was to operate and intermediate steps of the machine, that the machine would follow, which she described as a "complete simultaneous view of all the successive changes''. Furthermore, in this work, Lovelace explored possible applications of the machine, such as how it could interrupt sound and videos, and how the hardware of the machine could operate complex algebraic equations. In fact, Lovelace also observed how perhaps the machine could be capable of solving equations in ways humans had not thought of, or what is now known as "artificial intelligence". However, she believed that the machine would not be capable of doing these actions, yet these thoughts were extremely revolutionary and would not be further explored until the 1940s.

The Analytical Engine was never actually created, but it was a critical foundation for Alan Turning, who then formulated the first computer. Ultimately, Lovelace's work with the Analytical Engine provided the groundwork for the future of technology.

Ada Lovelace and Diagram Belonging to Note D from the expanded appendix. Picture from: Lookfar

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