June 5th

On this day in 1833 the seventeen year old Ada Byron, later to be Ada Lovelace, met Charles Babbage for the first time. It was a meeting that led to a lifelong friendship and to Ada becoming known as the first computer programmer.

A photo of the young Ada

Now, there is some debate about how much input she had into the “programming” for Babbage’s Analytical Engine, but from what I can see this is mostly because she was a lady and Babbage was a big old clever man, so she was probably just writing down stuff that he’d told her to write down and wasn’t that clever at all. My response to this sort of stuff is quite simple: whatever. There is more than enough to suggest that the Countess of Lovelace was plenty clever enough to have created a dinky little algorithm on all her ownsome. I’ll tell you more about her and not too much about Babbage, because, you know how it is, that man gets all the publicity. Time for him to lurk in the shadows for a while.

Ada was born in 1815 and her father was, as you know, the really rather gorgeous and allegedly mad, bad and dangerous to know, Lord Byron. However her mother (Anne Milbanke) and father separated soon after her birth, he died when she was nine and she never knew him. He wrote this about her in Childe Harold:

`Is thy face like thy mother’s, my fair child!
Ada! sole daughter of my house and of my heart? 
When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smiled’ 
And then we parted,-not as now we part, 
but with a hope.’

Which was quite pretty. Her mother thought that Byron was  total mentalist and to ensure that her daughter didn’t end up all loco in the coco, she decided that she should be well-educated in mathematics and science. I can see her logic, what with maths and science being all, well logical, but if she’d had a proper think about it, she would have realised that a lot of scientists and mathematicians are barking. Thankfully, she didn’t and so Ada received an education which as unusual for a girl of her background in that period. She had fine tutors and it was generally agreed that she was a first-rate student who might go on to be a first-rate mathematician. Despite this, biographers still like to give it “well maybe it was Babbage who told her what to do”. Shut up, already!

When she met Babbage, she was already a fine maths geek and their friendship was in part based on their mutual love of the subject and

Right nice painting of Ada

interest in research and doing big hard sums. Babbage also called her the Enchantress of the Numbers, so it’s probably not out of the realm of possibility that he wanted to get into her pantaloons. But he didn’t. She got married to an earl and he tried to make mechanical computer type things. Her algorithm was written in 1842-43, when he asked her to translate something an Italian had written up for him about his Analytical Engine and  how it worked. He also asked her to add her own notes, which she did, her notes exceeding the text she’d translated. The fact is that Babbage saw his engine as pretty much a giant calculator; Ada saw that it could be more than that, that it could in fact be used to analyse just about anything. He was the mechanical genius, but she was more able to visualise the actual workings of the “software”.  That’s putting it simplistically, but it’s along the lines of how it was, so we really don’t need more complexity.

Her algorithm was to do with calculating Bernoulli numbers. Now, I could tell you all about Bernoulli numbers, but you don’t really need to know much other than they’re a sequence of rational numbers. I could pretend to know more than that, but frankly I started reading about them and my brain started to hurt a lot, so I stopped.  The engine that could have made this algorithm work wasn’t built, but according to computer type people, it would have worked and even though computers are electronic and not mechanical, and even though she wasn’t writing for something that she didn’t know would exist, she had written a proper programme of sorts.

All that really matters is she was very bloody clever, she knew what she was doing at a time when women were supposed to wander around being dim and fainting if someone said “nice tits” and her expansion of the theory/practice of what the analytical engine/computer could do was ground breaking, which is why she has  computer programming language named after her.  Them there Byrons had some pretty fine genes!

 

Today is the birthday of Marky Mark.

Now, I know I should be nice and call him Mark Wahlberg, but that man could live to be 102 and people will still remember that once upon a time he was Marky Mark off of the Funky Bunch and that Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch were really quite shit. That said he was better looking than his brother Donnie who was in New Kids on the Block and many a teenager swooned for his six-pack. I found it a bit unnecessary, but each to their own.

Nice arse, awful pants

Marky Mark was also trouble and was in enough trouble in his childhood (racist beatings, attempted murder, etc) to last most shitbags a lifetime. He repented his bad ways and went straight, but there’s still something a little “meh” about him. That said, I hold my hand up to falling a little in love with him in Boogie Nights when he played Dirk Diggler. However, I realised in retrospect that it was the slightly simple Dirk I thought was lovely and not the muscled up dick, Marky Mark.  I first saw the film with a couple of friends. There were only about five other people in the cinema (it was an early daytime showing) and within a few minutes three of those had walked out. We figured they thought they were coming to see a bit of a disco film and were shocked by all the cock and stuff. And of course that’s the other thing.  How disappointing must it be for women to go home with Marky Mark and find out that the cock at the end of Boogie Nights was a prosthetic? Poor old Marky Mark, destined to always be a disappointment.

So, he can act quite well at times, he was in a rubbish band and he’s been a deeply unpleasant criminal in his time. To be honest, I’m only writing about him because (a) I love Boogie Nights, (b) it amuses me to call him Marky Mark, and (c) it’s given me the excuse to say cock more than is strictly polite.

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3 Comments

Filed under Almanac

3 responses to “June 5th

  1. Brilliant Ada! I’ll point my steampunk writing friends here today.

    Poor old Marky.

  2. Fender

    I adore Ada Lovelace. But I doubt her mother thought Byron was a mentalist – they’re mind readers, not crazies.
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mentalist

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