Although articles like those in The Guardian want to remind all of us that women originally coded because it was considered a menial task, there are examples of outstanding advances by women in computer programming.
The aforementioned article briefly touches on some of them, before moving – with the intention of missing the point – to a rightly passionate position.
Ada Lovelace, known as the âfirst computer programmer,â once said, âImagination is the power of discovery, par excellence. This is what penetrates into the invisible worlds that surround us, the worlds of Science.
I’m sure many scientists would still agree with this same understanding of the imagination today, although it was uttered even before Darwin published On the origin of the species. And since it is this pioneering attitude that has given humanity so much (maybe even all?) Of its advances, its supporters deserve more than a sentence or two.
Ada Lovelace was the daughter of Anne Milbanke and Lord Byron. The pan-amorous bohemian poet had fled the country in the spring of 1816, before Lovelace was six months old, leaving Ada and her mother their own devices with another woman, Mary Somerville, who educated the nascent intellect.
Somerville tuition fees de Lovelace was mainly based on music, languages ââand mathematics. Somerville was hailed as “the queen of 19th century science” upon her death, and was the first to sign John Stuart Mill’s petition to parliament to give women the right to vote. Her connections as a polymath extended well in academic mathematical circles, which she used to introduce Lovelace to Charles Babbage.
Babbage and Lovelace’s correspondence began in 1835 and continued until his death in 1852. After five years of exchange and discussion, when Lovelace was 27 years old, Babbage went to Turin to give a seminar. on its “analysis engine” which would automatically produce mathematical and, supposedly, error-free tables.
After his visit, an Italian engineer, Luigi Menabrea, wrote the discussion in French and published it. Lovelace has been ordered translate the document into English. It took her a full yearâ¦ because she didn’t just translate the diary. Dissatisfied that the paper did not reach its potential, Lovelace completed her translation with 65 pages of “footnotes”, two and a half times more than the original paper.
Basically what had happened was that Babbage, “the father of the computer,” had in fact produced a calculator. No small feat. But it was Lovelace who took a bigger leap: if something is capable of performing simple calculations, then it must be capable of performing a number of other logical functions.
The idea of ââLovelace being the first programmer is ready for discussion. But, to be frank, this is how science works – each builds on what came before. Any silly pedant can look at a certain invention or theory and say, âAh! But before that, you hadâ¦ â; these arguments are not to be blessed with assumptions of intellectual sincerity.
To me, the case is clear: Babbage made a damn good calculator for the time, that’s obvious and laudable in those terms, but no more. The first “calculator” was designed and built in 1623 by Wilhelm Schickard, refinements and improvements were made from that date. But it’s not about what “coding” or “programming” is, or who was the first to do it.
Lady Lovelace was capable of what Babbage was not, she saw what could be rather than what was. His mind took the properties of calculators and applied them to a bigger idea.
Her notes documented the potential hardware and software needed for a machine to manipulate all the data represented by numbers, and an example of the kind of thing it might be able to do. And, as we found out later, its code was flawless. The notes then reflected on the idea that we could make said machine do anything we knew how to order it to operate.
What Lovelace had proposed was the first example of the means by which our modern world now functions. We still operate from his definition of computing, Turing’s dream is still the stuff of the pipe.
In other words, when Turing published his famous paper on “thinking” machines, he devoted an entire section to “Lady Lovelace’s objection”. Lady Lovelace never published any objections to the idea of ââa computational “thought”, since it was Turing who had this idea a hundred years later.
But she had published the first example of the definition of a computer: “The analytical engine does not claim to origin anything. it can do all we know how to order it execute â(emphasis added).
So what Turing called “Lady Lovelace’s objection” was a reference to what he saw as a fundamental shift in his thinking, known as the definition IT, from the inception of the analytical engine until then. He put it this way: “Our most detailed information on Babbage’s analytical engine comes from a memoir by Lady Lovelace …”
He was referring to his work because it was a crucial part of his and the community’s thinking on the subject. He gave only a superficial, symbolic reference to Babbage since it was his machine on which Lovelace projected the vital concept.
In other words, it was an answer to what he might assume of Lady Lovelace’s objections. may be been based on his writings. His mind was so great that the ideas that sprang from it had to be taken with the utmost sincerity, lest his own work be seen as incomplete or facetious.
She wasn’t just the first computer programmer, a profession that women did because âIt was seen as repetitive and inglorious ‘woman’s work’. Even today, it can be done at the entry level with a little training.
Lady Lovelace was part of a much more exalted and noble discipline. She was a scientist, and – having offered the first definition of a programmable machine – the world first in the field of computing.