Ada Lovelace was the world’s first computer programmer, she created the first known complex computer programme in 1843, but was then then written out of history. Despite only living to the age of 36; Lovelace a highly gifted mathematician achievements were very significant. Today she is credited as creator of the world’s very first machine algorithm. By no means an easy task- writing her programme from Charles Baggage’s drawings of Luigi Menabreas’s the Analytical engine, Ada translated the Italian engineer’s article into a huge catalogue of what she called “Notes”, and it was within these series of Notes, that his first algorithm was born. Now, hundreds of years later, Lovelace remains a role model for women scientists globally.
Had it been built, Ada’s programme would be have been the world’s first mechanical computer – yet remarkably, Lovelace and Babbage’s monumental achievement was ignored for a further century before we reached, in the 1940s, Alan Turing’s Enigma cracking mechanical computer.
Ada was a pioneer, a woman making remakrable achievements in a field almost exclusively reserved for men. Worryingly today, there are now even fewer woman in tech than there were 20 years ago. Prior to the 1980s, gender representation in tech was actually a 50/50 gender split. A fact renders that renders nonsense the rhetoric of ‘girls, unlike boys, are not cut out for science/engineering/technology/mathematics. So what happened?
Some say it is due to the rise of computer games and shoot ’em ups capturing young boys’ imagination whilst leaving most of the girls a little cold. Whatever the reason, instead of gaining ground for equality, in some countries, the engagement of young women in tertiary technology education has dropped to less than 9% in some countries. Clearly we have been lacking imaginative ways to make girls feel they have a future in STEM/STEAM fields.
With this in mind, Zoe Philpott saw that Ada Lovelace had the potential to be a world-renowned, positive role model for girls’ involvement in STEAM/STEM activities and the exciting tech careers that beckon beyond that. Ada Lovelace needed to be hauled into the spotlight.
Zoe is well placed to do this; she is an interactive storyteller with fifteen years of digital experience and over twenty years in the arts. She created virtual theatre for education “Kar2ouche” using gaming technology and winning a BETT for Twelfth Night and a BAFTA nomination for a physics creative learning tool called “Krucible”. More recently, working with Google to engage girls with computer programming and get interested in pursing careers in computer science. She was key to their Made With Code initiative wherein 50,000 programmable LEDS installed on 56 Christmas trees in President’s Park were coded by girls across the United States.
Taking Ada Lovelace as her inspiration, Zoe created “Ada, Ada, Ada” which is a one woman show which tells the inspirational story of Ada Lovelace. It is part educational talk, part drama and spectacle, with the performer dressed in a fully programmable 19th century LED dress that is operated by conductive fabric in the performer’s glove. During the performance, the audience are wound up with string in order to become Babbage’s first mechanical computer and together they attempt to run a simple programme.” Throughout the performance the audience work together to create the world’s first computer, making it their own. The experience highlights the significance of Ada Lovelace’s achievements and their impact on technology today and illustrates how each one of the audience can become the future of technology in their own right.
Lovelace is the original woman of STEAM and likened computers to weaving algebraic patterns like a loom weaves flowers and leaves.
Ada.Ada.Ada. is part of the global rallying cry for gender equality and follows the story of Ada Lovelace and her creation of the Analytical Engine in a truly unique way, condensing into a one-woman, 60-minute performance what was an extraordinary life and legacy. Award-winning storyteller Zoe Philpott will take the stage in a 4,400 interactive LED dress operated by programmable gloves. The costume was made in collaboration with world-leading technologist and founder of Hackspace London, Charles Yarnold.
The show has helped to inspire people all over the world to think more critically about the world of technology. It has been described as “a live performance that entertains, excites and educates” and “a story that pushes us to see our potential”. For many women in tech, the influence that Ada Lovelace has had on the industry cannot be overstated.