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Calculating Ada: The Countess of Computing

This documentary from the BBC explores the eccentric life of Ada Lovelace, the world's first programmer, the 'Enchantress of Numbers'

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Ada Lovelace In August 1843 a brilliant young countess, Ada Lovelace, approached an irascible inventor to offer her help to secure funding for the world’s first mechanical computer.  She alone had grasped the full implications of such a machine and had even written the first computer program for it.  But the inventor, Charles Babbage, refused.  Had Ada succeeded, the information technology revolution could have begun in Victorian Britain. She’d have ushered in the computer age a whole century earlier.

This is her remarkable story...

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'Calculating Ada: The Countess of Computing' airs on BBC Four on Thursday 17th September 2015 at 9.00PM. Full broadcast details and watch again links can be found on bbc.co.uk. 

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More about the documentary

Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC Ada Lovelace was a most unlikely computer pioneer. In this film, Dr Hannah Fry tells the story of Ada's remarkable life. Born in the early 19th century Ada was a countess of the realm, a scandalous socialite and an 'enchantress of numbers'. The film is an enthralling tale of how a life infused with brilliance, but blighted by illness and gambling addiction, helped give rise to the modern era of computing.

Hannah traces Ada's unlikely union with the father of computers, Charles Babbage. Babbage designed the world's first steam-powered computers - most famously the analytical engine - but it was Ada who realised the full potential of these new machines. During her own lifetime Ada was most famous for being the daughter of romantic poet Lord Byron ('mad, bad and dangerous to know'). It was only with the advent of modern computing that Ada's understanding of their flexibility and power (that they could be far more than mere number crunchers) was recognised as truly visionary. Hannah explores how Ada's unique inheritance - poetic imagination and rational logic - made her the ideal prophet of the digital age.

This moving, intelligent and beautiful film makes you realise we nearly had a Victorian computer revolution.