Ada Lovelace Day 2009

When I was a student, focused on computer science and software engineering, I can remember that there was only one woman in my class. And she was a bit odd. A biker with a collection of leather jackets and a haircut that looked like Edward Scissorhands had done his worst – drunk.
In fact, my entire class was an assembled collection of oddballs, me included, with my Morrissey-inspired vegetarianism and flowers-in-the-pocket-fashion. What would you expect of a computer science class in the 1980s? We were the children of the micro revolution. I cut my teeth on the Commodore 64, Sinclair ZX81, Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore PET, and Dragon 32… teaching myself BASIC in a number of guises, and assembly code for chips like the 6502, 6510, and Z80.
When I was studying computer science, one of the things I had to learn was how to write software in the programming language Ada. It’s quite hard compared to languages like BASIC or C, which I was using at the time. It’s a lot more rigorous and doesn’t allow for the fast and loose coding I liked – especially when creating my latest game.
One of the things I discovered at that time, and read more about as I left college and found that some of the things they were trying to teach me were actually quite interesting, was that Ada Lovelace inspired Ada. The language was originally designed by the US defence department and named in her honour – because she is the first recorded computer programmer, ever. She wrote extensively on Babbage’s work, such as the Analytical Engine, and her commentary on the early days of computing and programming stand up today as the best record of those pioneering achievements.
And so that brings me to today. It’s Ada Lovelace day today, a day where bloggers around the world are joining together to promote women who are important or influential in technology today. It’s an important initiative because the technology world needs to involve more women, yet I suspect the computer science higher education classes of today are probably similar to my memories of the 1980s.
Angelica Mari is the woman I want to draw attention to as a great role model for young women thinking about a career in technology. She is a senior reporter at Computing magazine, the most important business technology journal in the UK.
Of course, I would say this as I write a blog for Computing myself and Angelica is my girlfriend, but I admired her work before I was ever lucky enough to date her. And it’s a fact that Computing is the best tech magazine in Britain, because the editor focuses on business and how technology interacts with business – not just the technology itself.
Take a look at Computing magazine, and week after week Angelica is breaking new and important stories about technology and how real managers in business are using it or are affected by it. Her energy and enthusiasm for getting to the bottom of a story is really infectious. She has improved my own writing through her enthusiasm and style.
But she also has a real passion for the environment and how clean technologies can make a difference, not just to the technology industry, but to every industry.
And I’m now working on a book with her that also focuses on the use of technology by business. Her ideas changed my entire view on how the book might work and so the focus shifted – making it a far better project. She has a great insight into what ‘normal’ people think about technology and how it influences the work of non-techies, and I really have a great deal of respect for her insight – as well as her writing. I will blog more about this book when we are closer to publication – for now it’s still under wraps.
Technology itself is changing the world of journalism, but there will always be a market for writers who can see the effect of technology on the real world – whether that comment appears in blogs or broadsheets. If any young women currently at school or university are considering a career that spans both technology and journalism then I’d advise them to Google Angelica for an example of someone who is going to be one of the leading technology commentators of the next decade.
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