It’s come up in conversation that all of my dear readers might not know who Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace were. Being a computer scientist, my reaction to that would be, “Huh? Really?” Heh.
Together, they are hailed at the Mother and Father of modern computing. Babbage designed two devices called the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine in the 1830s. Ada, Countess of Lovelace, designed the first computer programming language for Babbage’s engine. Neither of the devices were ever actually built because Babbage (a high-profile genius of the time) squandered his government grant money. However, the Analytical Engine was built from Babbage’s designs in the 1990s, and it would have worked. I got to see it at the British Museum while we were living in London.
Ada Lovelace has become prominent in my lifetime as a rallying figure for women in math and science.
The Difference Engine is the fuel for many a Steampunk alternate universe. What would have happened if we’d developed computers in the 1830s, one hundred years earlier than we actually did? It’s tantalizing to realize that if Babbage had been a better money manager, we just might have. Ah, the world may never know.
At any rate, when I was trying to figure out what hard core computer/science geeks like Zahra, Cyclone, and Fabian would name their kids, these guys seemed like the natural namesakes. It’s amusing that neither of the Sample kids turned out to have any interest in the sciences at all.
They were really colorful figures in their own right, and I love reading about them. I highly recommend Sydney Padua’s hilarious “historic” Babbage and Lovelace comics if you haven’t seen them: http://sydneypadua.com/2dgoggles/lovelace-the-origin-2/