Ada Lovelace day: my tribute to an inspirational woman

March 24, 2010

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.


5 Responses to “Ada Lovelace day: my tribute to an inspirational woman”

  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by EnemyOfChaos: My Ada Lovelace Day post. It’s about a female who inspired me hugely & a programming competition we entered together –

  2. cyberdoyle Says:

    aww, what a lovely post to read on Adaday… Galaxy, (was a good choice by the school for a budding satellite scientist huh?)

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Fiona Campbell-Howes, sophiescott, Howard Asprey, Leila Johnston, Women Magazine and others. Women Magazine said: "Ada Lovelace day: my tribute to an inspirational woman « Enemy o…" Great Women on Twitter! […]

  4. Liam Says:

    Your school project sounds like so much fun. Do you remember viewdata systems? These were used for data entry as the basis for teletext pages (on BBC micros in my case). I spent weeks meticulously designing an information system for the local leisure centre and I got to draw all the emblems of the local football teams out on graph paper and then translated it to colour coded teletext graphics…it was so much fun and the end result was amazing! There’s something about having a constained presentation medium that can bring out the best in your work, don’t you think?

  5. enemyofchaos Says:

    Thanks Liam, yes am a big fan of Viewdata! The systems are still used by some travel agencies. Limitations definitely inspire creativity, the more basic the medium the more impressive the results.

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