Ada Lovelace Day

Argh! I missed it–unsurprising, since I’ve been deluged with work and email, and since I also spent more than an hour after a long string of classes today, helping some students figure out how to find  an angle for their article for the magazine we’re working on. (So if I haven’t replied to an email, it’s coming soon, dear reader/correspondent.)

Well, Nalo and Jetse both blogged for the occasion, among, I’m sure, many others.

But I did not let Lady Lovelace go unnoticed on her special day: when one of my students claimed (today, in Media English) that the “first computer” was the Eniac, we had a little talk about how “computer” used to mean people who did computations, and touched on abacuses, slide rules, and then people Babbage, Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, and Alan Turing. (Eniac was “the first general-purpose electronic computer,” says Wikipedia. Those adjectives mean something, and most of the students’ English is good enough to grasp the fine points of that difference.)

(The fact that the “first programmer” was a woman seemed to impress some of the students in the class–a class mostly made up of women–though in all honesty Turing’s sad fate seemed to surprise–and shock–them somewhat more.)

4 thoughts on “Ada Lovelace Day

  1. In fact, before you mentioned it, I didn’t know that had happened to him. It certainly shocked (although not surprised) me. It is also a very good example of a man being sexually brutalized by the authority structure in a way we more often see women being brutalized. A very private sort of torture.

    It is funny…I forgot it was Ada Lovelace day until Cheryl mentioned it, then forgot again until a coworker and I were talking about how few womens’ bathrooms there are where we work, at a big technical university. I never noticed it before, just assumed the mens’ were the same. And she said it was because there weren’t many women here before, although now we seem to almost have parity . . . so that’s why, she explained, there’s a women’s lounge over in the main building, and a women’s studies reading room set aside in the library on this side of campus, next to the only restroom.

    They’re the reminders of a time when space was set aside . . . rather than made open to all. And the continuing need for that space to be set aside, for there to be womens’ colleges, for example . . .

  2. V,

    Yeah, on the men being brutalized thing… that was the subject of the first essay I wrote on Shakespeare as an adult, on Othello. Turing is an excellent (tragic) example.

    As for the lack of women’s bathrooms — has anyone suggested converting some of the men’s rooms? Maybe it should be suggested. Reminders of that time in the past are, pragmatically speaking, useful, but not as useful as a reasonable degree of access to facilities. :)

  3. I remember my Korean high school (government-written) “Industrial Arts” textbook (waaaay back in early 1980s), which stated that ENIAC was the first computer. [No mention of Ada Lovelace. I didn’t learn about her until my computer programming class in a US university] That may be the reason why your student mentioned ENIAC as the first computer. [Textbooks are no longer government written, but they are still government-approved].

  4. That might be. I think it’s often claimed without the caveats… and in the sense we use the word, it’s probably true… but I prefer to show how computers developed over a long time, and due to many developers and inventors and thinkers. :)

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