Transcript Edit

Text reads: The Mysteries of Life with Tim and Moby

Tim is sitting on the floor, tinkering with a pile of circuit boards. Moby walks up to him.

MOBY: Beep.

TIM: Oh, just playing around with these old circuit boards.

MOBY: Beep.

TIM: Yeah? Let me see.

Moby hands Tim a piece of paper. Tim reads from a typed letter.

TIM: Dear Tim and Moby, could you please tell me about Lady Ada Lovelace? From, Sean. Sure thing. Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, is considered by many to have been the first computer programmer.

An image shows Ada Lovelace.

TIM: She was born in London in 1815 to Anne Milbank and the poet George Gordon Byron, better known as Lord Byron. A month after her birth, though, Ada's parents separated.

An image shows Ada Lovelace as a baby, with her parents.

TIM: Ada stayed with her mother in London while her father left the country. Ada never saw him again.

An animation shows Ada with her mother as her father drives away.

MOBY: Beep.

TIM: Yeah, it was kind of a rocky situation. Ada's mother wasted no time in taking charge of her daughter's education, though. She'd been interested in mathematics herself, so she strongly encouraged Ada to develop a mathematical mind.

An image shows Ada and her mother surround by numbers and math symbols.

TIM: She hired private tutors to help teach young Ada, who grew to love working with numbers.

An image shows a tutor teaching young Ada how to use an abacus.

TIM: Unfortunately, though, Ada was often ill. She suffered from severe headaches and became paralyzed at 14 after contracting the measles. It took almost a full year in bed for her to recover!

An animation shows an unhappy young Ada in bed. She looks out her bedroom window as the seasons change.

MOBY: Beep.

TIM: Well, it helped that she could enjoy home-school tutoring from some well-known scientists and mathematicians. One of these was Scottish researcher and writer Mary Somerville, who became both a mentor and friend to Lovelace. Somerville encouraged Ada to follow her mathematical and scientific studies, and introduced her to various scholars of the day.

An image shows Ada in bed, leafing through an algebra book. Mary Somerville looks over Ada’s shoulder.

TIM: One of Somerville's friends was mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage.

An image shows Charles Babbage.

TIM: Lovelace became fascinated by Babbage's work, in particular a machine he'd invented called the Difference Engine. She paid Babbage a visit in order to see the Difference Engine in person. It wasn't finished yet, but the machine could automatically calculate mathematical equations in a way that no device at that time could do.

An image shows Ada standing next to Babbage. The two are surrounded by a large, complicated arrangement of wires and machinery.

TIM: She was only a teenager, but Lovelace understood how the Difference Engine worked and knew it had the potential to be very important.

An image shows Ada examining the Difference Engine. A lightbulb appears next to Ada’s head.

MOBY: Beep.

TIM: Oh. Actually, that was something else. Another of Babbage's ideas was for a device called the Analytical Engine. It was designed to add, subtract, multiply, and divide numbers; derive square roots; and make comparisons.

An image shows a complicated looking device similar to the Difference Engine. Math symbols appear around the device.

TIM: The machine could do these things by reading instructions on punched cards.

An image shows an old-fashioned computer punch card.

MOBY: Beep.

Moby is building a house with circuit boards.

TIM: You're getting ahead of me, and please don't do that to my boards. Anyway, soon after Lovelace met with Babbage she married a scientist named William King. King was a nobleman, so he went by a bunch of fancy titles, including Earl of Lovelace. That's how Ada became known as Ada King, the Right Honorable Countess of Lovelace.

An image shows Ada getting married to a handsome man.

TIM: She had three children and quickly went back to her mathematical work.

An image shows Ada and her three children.

TIM: Then in 1842, another mathematician wrote a detailed description of Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine in French. By that time, Babbage had grown quite impressed by Lovelace's intellect. He'd even given her an endearing nickname, the Enchantress of Numbers.

An image shows a book about Babbage's Analytical Engine.

TIM: So he asked her to translate and take notes on the French description of the Analytical Engine for him.

An image shows Babbage handing the book to Lovelace.

TIM: Lovelace worked on this for nine months, adding many of her own unique insights and calculations. Her notes included a plan for how the engine could calculate a sequence of numbers called the Bernoulli numbers. Today, many historians consider this to have been the first computer program, and Lovelace the first programmer.

An image shows Lovelace translating the book and writing down numbers and calculations.

TIM: Computer programs, by the way, are the all-important instructions that computers need to perform any function.

An image shows a computer. Moby’s face appears on a grid.

MOBY: Beep.

TIM: Lovelace also predicted that computing machines might one day be used to do things like compose music and create graphics.

An image shows Lovelace thinking about the kinds of things computers might do someday.

MOBY: Beep.

TIM: Yeah, she sure was right about that, and we're living proof. Seriously, though, Lovelace was a visionary in many ways. She was only one of a few people in her day who got how these early computers worked, and she was possibly the only one who really appreciated how they might be used.

An image of Lovelace appears in the center of the screen. In the background to her left, an image of Babbage's machines appears. In the background to her right, an image of modern laptop and desktop computers appears.

TIM: It was pretty impressive, considering she lived at a time when women weren't accepted as scholars, much less mathematicians.

An image shows Lovelace smiling. Behind her, two bored women are doing needlepoint.

TIM: In the end, Babbage was never able to fully build either of his early computers. And sadly, Ada's health went downhill not long after she published her work on the Analytical Engine. It's thought that she suffered from cancer for a number of years. Lovelace died in 1852, about two weeks before her 37th birthday.

Moby picks up a circuit board.

MOBY: Beep.

TIM: Hey, what did you do with my board?

Moby's chest opens, and he inserts the circuit board inside himself.

TIM: Well, good luck with that.

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