20:04 11th Dec, 2012
Google Doodles On Ada Lovelace's Birthday, But Who Is She?
Ada was the world's first computer programmer and a gifted mathematician.
Today is Ada Lovelace's 197th birthday and Google has put up a special doodle on its home page to celebrate just that. For the uninitiated, Ada was the world's first computer programmer, and all of us who are connected with computers in some way or the other, owe more than what we can imagine to this extraordinary pioneer of her time. Of course, there were no electronic computers in the middle of the 19th century, but there was Charles Babbage's Difference Engine and Analytical Engine, at least in conceptual stages, which were mechanical computers, and Ada prepared algorithms for the latter, which is analogous to software programming on electronic computers of today.
Born on 10th of December, 1815 in London, Augusta Ada Byron was groomed from her early years in mathematics by her mother Anabella, who herself was a mathematician in her own right. Born in an age where women were not encouraged to take up academic careers, she was a trend-setter. Ada corresponded with Babbage, who was so impressed by her intellect and writing skills that he described her as "The Enchantress of Numbers". He invited her to use her mathematical skills to translate an Italian piece written by mathematician Luigi Menabrea that described his Analytical Engine, into English for publication in England. You will probably be able to imagine the difficulty in even grasping the concept at that time, of this totally unprecedented machine, which did not even exist physically, but only on the drawing board. While Ada is sometimes discredited about her actual contribution as a programmer as against a mere translator, it is a well-accepted fact from her notes that she did understand the workings of the Analytical Engine.
Ada Lovelace passed away at an early age of 36 in 1852 and neither she, nor Babbage lived long enough to see the Analytical Engine in action. The Analytical Engine was partially completed in 1910, and a complete working model was finally constructed by the London Science Museum in 1991.
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