Ada's Program

We often point to Lady Ada as the world's first programmer. But what did she program? And why is it important?

Babbage asked Ada to translate a review of his engine's design before it was built. She did, from German to English, and she added many pages of notes describing ways to use the engine that were missed by the reviewer.

The engine was designed to run numbers through formulas. The numbers were abstract concepts against with formulas had meaning.

Ada reversed the logic. She pointed out that the machine could give the numbers new meaning. The could represent things that weren't associated with formulas. Choosing how to use the resources of a computer to represent things in the world is one of the more creative acts in programming.

When we are asked to devise a sequence of steps to move a turtle (in logo) or to solve a puzzle (hour of code) we are operating on numbers that already have meaning. They measure distance. Go forward 100 pixels Obama programmed. post

Learning to work someone else's abstraction is no more profound than learning that pressing return will cause an electric typewriter to start on a new line. Now press the letters to tell a story.

When we say, here is a page, write some words on it that will have meaning, that is much closer to programming than solving number puzzles.