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CodeHer #1: Ada Lovelace

The World’s First Computer Programmer

At Codeworks, we’re calling them CodeHers. Female computer scientists, techies, developers and programmers. In this five-part series, we take a look at famous CodeHers throughout history, as well as some of our Codeworks students past and present.

As we mentioned in our previous post, we need to keep fighting against the huge gender gap in the industry. That’s why at Codeworks we offer 10% off course fees for women.

If you think about the typical image of a developer, you might picture a young man, and for a good reason: that’s the truth. The tech scene is generally more male. But it wasn’t always like this. The truth is that when it came to programming back in the day, women were pretty damn pioneering in different ways to today. Let’s start over two hundred years ago, with a look at the first ever programmer to make a mark. A programmer who just so happened to be a woman.

Image Credit to Entity Magazine.

Cool CodeHer Facts:

  • Born December 10, 1815
  • Daughter of Lord Byron. (Her mother kept her well away from a career in poetry.)
  • Ada understood that computers could do more than calculate numbers. She became not only the first female programmer, but the first ever computer programmer
  • There’s a programming language called ‘Ada’ in Lovelace’s honor

‘’The more I study, the more insatiable do I feel my genius for it to be. ’’

Why She’s a Maverick

At the age of 17, Ada met Cambridge mathematics professor Charles Babbage, an event that changed her life. This is was the beginning of a long professional relationship. When Babbage asked her to translate an Italian written piece, Lovelace used Babbage’s computer, known then as an ‘Analytical Engine.’ It’s rumoured that she then wrote the first algorithm to be processed by a machine.

Babbage was so impressed by Ada’s skills that he called her: “The Enchantress of Numbers” and they began to collaborate.

Is This Really The World’s First Computer?

This ‘Analytical Engine’ is considered the first general purpose computer. It’s widely considered a precursor of the modern computer.

A Selection of Drawings by Babbage for the Difference Engine (Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library)

As Suw Charman-Anderson, founder of ‘Ada Lovelace Day’, says:

Ada understood that if you could break something like music or art down into rules, that you could then use symbolic logic to program the analytical engine to create graphics or music. That was something no one else at the time understood. ”

What Can We Learn From Ada?

Mix it up a bit

Coding doesn’t have to be your sole hobby and Ada blended it with other interests of her time, like riding horses and playing the harp!

Have a think about what you love doing now, is coding so different, or is there a connection? We often imagine coders doing little else, but all our students, men and women have wider interests. From yoga to cooking and music to boxing, we encourage students to look after their body and mind at bootcamp.

Ask for help

We all have to start somewhere. Ada clearly used Babbage as a mentor and wasn’t afraid to collaborate. Similarly, we’d suggest if you’re interested in coding or tech, connect with a peer or senior in the area that you like.

Try and find another programmer you admire, and reach out online or at a MeetUp. You might just buy this potential mentor one quick coffee and pick their brains to start with. Or who knows, you could becoming their full time protege and shadow them at work. Whatever you do, connect to those with more experience.

Switch mentors

You can also switch mentors like Ada throughout your career. After having three kids, Ada told Babbage she wanted to find a new “Mathematical Instructor” in London. She asked that in making enquiries he not mention her name, presumably for fear of society gossip.

Stay connected

Today, we run a few MeetUps at our campus, so if you’re looking to find a potential mentor in Barcelona’s Coding Community, check out our events. You can connect in person, or message the attendees afterwards to stay in touch and build your contacts.

In the meantime, put the second Tuesday of October in your diary for Ada Lovelace day.

Next up:

For the next inspiration nugget in our CodeHers series, discover the woman whose code got women to the moon: Margaret Hamilton, CodeHer#2.

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The leading JavaScript bootcamp. We teach JS for the full stack in Europe and the Americas. For more info, check out our website: www.codeworks.me