Throughout today, the 24th of March, thousands of people will be blogging, tweeting, vlogging and just generally talking about Ada Lovelace. If you're curious as to why because you're not sure who she is, reading this will help. But if you're familiar with the historical woman, and still unsure why she inspires, and or deserves, all the furor - that might take a little longer to explain. I'll give it a shot, though.
Ada Lovelace's title as the world's first computer programmer is not undisputed. There are questions about how much she truly contributed to Charles Babbage's research, or whether or not her work qualified as "computing." But here's the thing - it doesn't matter. When we're talking about Ada, the facts of her aren't nearly as important as her myth, which has evolved for the same reason most myths do - someone needed it.
In this case, a lot of people needed it. The legend that has become Ada Lovelace is now an important symbol for women who look around in an engineering class or a tech conference or a board meeting and find few other women to look up to. She's become a storytelling example of a woman who did something no one expected or thought possible of her - something that, a couple hundred years later, some people still don't expect or think possible of women. And now she's become the force behind an event - Ada Lovelace Day - to pile on proof after much-needed proof that we should not only believe technical, scientific, engineering or mathematical accomplishment is possible from the fairer sex, but we should expect it.
Note: To those of you who learned about the Ada Lovelace Day pledge via me and let me know that you signed up for it - thanks! I'll be in touch with one of you to arrange getting your Ada t-shirt to you. And ff anyone else is still jonesing for my Ada design on a t-shirt, drop by the wonderful Skreened and pick one up.