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Ada's Algorithm: How Lord Byron's Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age through the Poetry of Numbers Kindle Edition
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''Engrossing.'' --New York Times
''Anyone who thinks Lovelace s contribution to computer science is overrated, should read [this] new biography.'' --Engineering and Technology Magazine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
- File size : 1710 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 239 pages
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- ASIN : B00F49M154
- Publisher : Gibson Square; UK ed. edition (5 Oct. 2013)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: 294,734 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Their roles were different. Babbage had the mechanical expertise, albeit that his Analytical Engine was never completed, due to lack of funds and the effective absence of a working precision machine industry for much of his life. He also lacked the people handling skills necessary to influence the course of events in his favour; he had a disastrous meeting with Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel in 1842 which, had he succeeded in convincing the latter of the economic benefits that could accrue from his machine, could have changed the future of technology over the next century, albeit that such intriguing "what ifs" are ultimately unprovable.
Ada was the one who had the vision of what the Analytical Engine might achieve, not only in crude mechanical terms, but in terms of a conceptual leap ("he [Babbage] saw machines essentially as mechanised servants of mankind rather than as a new area of discovery with its own mysteries. His scientific imagination was ultimately more prosaic and less incandescent than hers"). Drawing on the example of what had been achieved with a portrait woven on a French loom using a system of cards to control the threads, Ada conceptualised a clear distinction between data (the pattern of the woven portrait) and processing (how the principles behind the application of the cards could be replicated for other forms of information). In the author's words this is "a distinction we tend to take for granted today, but which – like so much of her thinking about computers – was in her own day not only revolutionary but truly visionary". She was effectively inventing the "science of operations", or what we would now call computing, a system that could be applied to any process involving the manipulation of information.
For all her vision, Ada Lovelace still struggled to be taken entirely seriously by her contemporaries, even by Babbage. Sadly, she had very little time to make further efforts in this regard, tragically dying of uterine cancer at the age of just 36 after two years of suffering and pain. Her doctors despaired of being able to do anything to relieve her condition, one offering the truly bleak prognosis that "The duty of the physician is thus a very sad one; as the highest success which he can hope to attain is to secure not recovery, but euthanasia".
As I said earlier, I thought the author initially failed to make the case for Ada Lovelace's significance, though this improved during the narrative. But the book did contain quite a number of typos and mistakes, including one bizarre one where Ada is described as paying a visit to Walter Scott in 1850 - 18 years after his death. Overall, not as good a read as it might have been.
It was an interesting subject, and I had wanted to learn more about Ada Lovelace, but found the book rather poorly written, with a somewhat irritating style. I may try and take it up again, but can only manage it in small doses!