Ada Lovelace Day
A portrait of Ada Lovelace, based on an original watercolour portrait by Alfred Edward Chalon (1780 – 1860), that has been modified into a woodcut-style graphic by Colin Adams, for the Ada Initiative. It has been converted into SVG format by Fred the Oyster then colourized by Kaldari. The original artwork is in the public domain, and this final Creative Commons derivative has been available in this form since 2011-10-15.

Today is Tuesday, 2021-10-12. Because it is the second Tuesday in October, it is Ada Lovelace Day.

The micro-story behind this posting is that Ada Lovelace (1815 – 1852) collaborated with Charles Babbage (1791 – 1871) on his Analytical Engine. In 1843, she was the first person to publish a computer program. It generated Bernoulli numbers. Lovelace is also considered the first person to foresee the creative potential of the Analytical Engine, especially its ability to create music and art. The date selected for Ada Lovelace day is arbitrary. This day is one that could be one used by people with programming skills to serve humankind in various ways. In many places, it is also a school day, although not this year, and many other years where I live, as a week long autumn school break is being held.

For those wanting more information about Ada Lovelace, one place to begin is her Wikipedia article. In additional to a biography, it also provides other sources of information about her, including books, plays and videos.

At one level this day attempts to raise the profile of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Some want to use STEAM, by adding Art. In my time as a teacher of technology, Ada Lovelace day was an opportunity to encourage female students to investigate STEAM, where they might be able to bypass some of those headstrong members of another, weaker gender. This day does not supersede or in any way compete with the International Women’s Day on 03-08,

In terms of the more technical aspects of computing there are many other days that can be celebrated, World computer day is 02-15. It was first celebrated in 2021, with a focus on 75 year old Eniac, described by some as the first programmable, electronic, general-purpose digital computer. At a more practical level, the second Monday in February, is designated the (American) National Clean Out Your Computer Day. Many people have issues regarding the storage of data on their computers, including the taking of regular backups. However, there is also a World Backup Day on 03-31, which could be a better day to focus on such issues.

For those who need more computing days: (Apple) Macintosh Computer Day = 01-24; World Password Day = 05-05; System Administrator Appreciation Day = 07-30; Computer Security Day = 11-30; Computer Literacy Day = 12-02, and National Download Day = 12-28.

Dates in the weblog follow International Standard ISO 8601 formats. Generally, of the form YYYY-MM-DD, however in this specific post there are many in the MM-DD format. ISO 8601 is the only format that the Government of Canada and Standards Council of Canada officially recommend for all-numeric dates. It is my experience that about half the Canadian population uses the American MM-DD-YYYY format, while the other half uses DD-MM-YYYY, necessitating the need for ISO 8601. However, usage differs with context. See:

3 Replies to “Ada Lovelace Day”

  1. Er, Brock. Don’t you live i a European country, where the accepted format of writing dates is DD-Mmm-YYYY or DD-Mmm-YY?
    I find it confusing to see the months given in numerals when dealing with data from N.America or intended for that continent of Colonies, so I chose to write the first three letters instead. Any date given thus becomes unambiguous.
    Still, an interesting blog. Ada should be given more prominence in our modern times, especially in the schools.
    Wasn’t the first programmable computer assembled at Bletchley Park, for use in helping to check decodes of Nazi FISH cypher traffic in the Colossus machine?

    1. Thank you for your comment, Peter.

      Yes, I live in a European country, Norway.

      What surprises a lot of Norwegians is that the only date/ time related standard in Norway is NS-ISO 8601, which specifies a lot of different ways of writing dates, all beginning with the year.

      That said, the format is conventional. Leading zeroes and century digits may be omitted. ddmmyy (six figures, no century digits, no delimiters) is allowed in tables. ISO dates yyyy-mm-dd can be used for “technical” purposes. The fraction form d/m-y is incorrect, but is common and considered passable in handwriting.

      Picking another randomly selected European country, the United Kingdom, they too have just one standard for dates: BS ISO 8601:2004, BS EN 28601 (1989-06-30).

      Wikipedia notes, “Most style guides follow the DMY convention by recommending d mmmm yyyy (sometimes written dd/mm/yyyy) format in articles (e.g. The Guardian’s, and the Oxford Style Manual).

      Some newspapers use dddd mmmm d, yyyy for both the banner and articles, while others stick to DMY for both.

      In addition, YMD with four-digit year is used increasingly especially in applications associated with computers, and as per British standard BS ISO 8601:2004, avoiding the ambiguity of the numerical versions of the DMY/MDY formats.”

      Before becoming a burden on other people, and writing YYYY-MM-DD habitually, I used to write months as Roman nummerals, as: 13 x 2021. You will find that many of the books in my library have this format to indicate their purchase date.

      The main reason I stick to YYYY-MM-DD is that using it means that documents automatically sort themselves into date order on computers. Such would not be the case if I began with a day or month.

  2. With respect to the other aspect of your comment, Peter, about the first computer. Yes, I regard Bletchley Park to be the home of the first computer, Colossus. The opinion is stated in a weblog post published 2018-12-25, Netbooks.

    The opening paragraph states, “Colossus was the world’s first digital, electronic, programmable computer, although it was programmed by switches and plugs and not by a stored program. It was constructed at Bletchley Park, England in 1943-4. It was designed by research telephone engineer Tommy Flowers (1905-1998), assisted by William Chandler, Sidney Broadhurst and Allen Coombs; with Erie Speight and Arnold Lynch developing the photoelectric reading mechanism. Twelve machines were built, which were used for military (decryption) purposes during World War II.”

    Not everyone agrees with this, many who live in USA regard ENIAC, built at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, as the first computer. Interestingly, especially in terms of Ada Lovelace Day, the first six programmers of ENIAC were all women: Frances “Fran” Spence (née Bilas,1922 – 2012); Jean Jennings Bartik (born Betty Jean Jennings, 1924 – 2011), Ruth Teitelbaum (née Lichterman, 1924–1986), Kathleen “Kay” McNulty (Antonelli, 1922 – 2006), Frances Elizabeth Holberton (née Snyder, 1917 – 2001) and Marlyn Wescoff (Meltzer, 1922 – 2008). Despite their competence, they were all classified as sub-professionals.

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