Ada Lovelace Day

Yesterday was Ada Lovelace Day and I pledged that I’d blog about women in computing. Epic fail.

But I did think about what to write. This involved a pleasant hour or so reading through the Women in Computing category at wikipedia. It reminded me how awesome Grace Hopper was — I’m a sucker for a uniform — but also sent me off on a dozen other fascinating trails. Programming language design, in particular, seems to attract many pioneering women. There are also significant contributions to the cryptography, internetworking and library studies ontology. But it seems kinda ridiculous to lionize these women who are already widely and justly celebrated.

So I’m taking a more personal tack. First, I want to salute all the brilliant women in computing it’s been my pleasure to study with, work alongside and befriend over the years. They know who they are. (Oddly, it seems I’ve avoided being taught by women…)

And I want to tip the propeller beanie to Dr Sheena Flower, who was the computer science teacher at the school where my mum used to work. It being a single-sex school, Dr Flower must have introduced many thousands of women to computing over the years. Score. But here are three gifts she gave me:

  1. With her PhD-fu she made me aware of Edinburgh as a centre of excellence for computer science.
  2. She explained “delta analysis” aka the method of differences to me at some point in the late 80s. This was the first time I saw an algorithm discover something.
  3. She lent me school computers — first BBC Bs, then PCs — over the summer holidays. This was my first opportunity to stay up late programming.

Thanks, Sheena!

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