The big day is upon us. For anyone who doesn’t know, the idea is this: for one day a year, bloggers flood the web with posts about a woman in science or technology who has inspired us. The Finding Ada website has more info.
Well… I made my pledge to do this, and here it is.
My nomination is going to be kind of anonymous, as I feel sure I’ve humiliated her enough on various nostalgic websites I’ve made in the past. Also, I can never find her online anywhere, so I can’t give you a link or photo anyway.
All you need to know is that she was my best friend at one of my (many) schools, and was exceptionally talented at maths and technology. At 12, she was fascinated by things like meteorology and optics, but I wasn’t (what a fool I was), and when we were together we just made up stories about ponies.
Having said that, we did like the computer room, and one year the pair of us entered a computer programming competition. We imagined we might be able to do some kind of basic animation in Pascal or something. I can’t remember much about the programming, except that it was very repetitive, and very satisfying, and that we did a lot of it on graph paper. I do remember we took shifts on the computer, one dictating as the other typed, and it took days. Days. While everyone else plotted line drawings that were then printed out and stuck around the room, we typed and typed and sweated and scribbled, and – eventually – unveiled our handiwork to the curious class. In fact, I remember now that it was supposed to be an Easter card. But for some reason we wanted it to be set in space. So our “Easter Card” was an animation about singing aliens that had to be left running on a computer screen.
Audacious huh? But our daring was rewarded! Yes: we won, of course. And – get this – the prize was a giant slab of Galaxy EACH. Honestly, you’ve never seen such a big bar of chocolate. I think the school even had our program running on a specially switched-on computer for one of their Open Days.
I think about her often now; the older I get, the more I understand her – and the more I understand her, the more I think I could learn from her. One of my greatest life regrets is that we didn’t manage to stay in touch for long after I left the school. I think she studied engineering at Cambridge, and last I heard she was off building satellites somewhere. I really hope she’s doing well. She was a brilliant friend to me, and a real five star geek, one of the cleverest people I’ve ever known, and I never appreciated her enough at the time.
Also, it’s that time of year again, and I’d love to collaborate on another blasphemous Easter card and win some more chocolate.