Documentary in which Dr Hannah Fry tells the story of Ada Lovelace's remarkable life - a 19th-century countess whose work helped give rise to the modern era of computing.
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You might have assumed that the computer age began
with some geeks out in California.
Or perhaps with the codebreakers of World War II.
But the pioneer who first saw the true power of the computer
lived way back,
during the transformative age of the Industrial Revolution.
As Queen Victoria takes to the throne in the early 19th century,
Britain is on the brink
of an even more ambitious revolution -
the mechanisation of thought itself.
Forged from brass and powered by steam, a Victorian computer age.
It took extraordinary foresight and yet,
in this patriarchal world, this visionary wasn't a man.
Passionate and intelligent, Lady Ada Lovelace.
I'm Hannah Fry.
As a mathematician, I want to find out how this 19th-century lady
prophesied the information age.
How she published the first computer program
as long ago as 1843.
And how she nearly brought about a Victorian computer revolution.
I want to rediscover the story of Ada Lovelace,
the woman who dared to dream of a world of computers,
and to uncover her role in a remarkable vision of the future.
To find out how this Victorian lady could have foreseen the power
of computers, I've come here,
a day's ride from London and her home for most of her adult life.
Ada had a very privileged background.
In fact, she was almost one of Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting.
So it was no surprise when she was married off to Lord King,
soon to become the Earl of Lovelace,
a man who was ten years her senior
and as practical as Ada was imaginative.
Dickens, Faraday and the inventor Charles Babbage
were just some of their close acquaintances.
It was a magical, exciting time.
Two opposing cultures, science and romanticism, were colliding.
My heroine thrived at the crossroads of both.
She wrote her dream of a computerised world in this,
Taylor's Scientific Memoirs.
Now, this isn't just any old book.
This is one of the most visionary documents in the history
of science, a 65-page blueprint for a computer revolution.
It has complex mathematics,
it has the layout for the world's first
general-purpose computing machine.
It even has the world's first published computer programs
and in it, Ada suggests that a machine made from cogs and cams
and steam and oil could compose music.
In effect, it's Ada's key manifesto for a computer age.
And all of this as far back as 1843.
This document is a fascinating mix of science and imagination.
So how did she manage to embrace both strands -
logic and the creative arts?
It seems to me that there was one man
at the epicentre of everything that Ada did.
He had a huge influence on her upbringing
and was the biggest celebrity in Britain at the time.
Lord Byron, poet, philanderer, romantic and Ada's father.
Ada was his only legitimate daughter
and he loomed large throughout her life.
And yet he left her when she was just a five-week-old baby
and he never saw her again.
Her mother made quite sure of that.
Annabella Milbanke and Lord Byron married in 1815,
yet were poles apart.
Annabella was mathematical and stiflingly conformist.
Byron was free-spirited and cared little for numbers.
The scandalous Lord Byron,
as well as producing some of the most important written works
of the 19th century,
was famous for drinking out of a human skull,
having a pet bear and numerous affairs with both men and women.
Now, one spurned lover - female - famously put it that he was
"mad, bad and dangerous to know".
Annabella and Byron's marriage lasted for a very long year,
before it eventually broke up acrimoniously.
She kicked him out, covered his painting with a big curtain
and forbade Ada from ever looking at it,
which must have been torturous
for someone with as inquisitive a mind as Ada had.
Annabella loathed her estranged husband and went about purging
the young girl of any evidence of her father's personality.
"Volatile poetic insanity", she called it.
So she was looking for ways to try and protect Ada.
Annabella decided to force-feed the child on a diet of maths
and science with a zeal bordering on fanaticism,
even though the subjects were seen as the preserve of the male mind.
Augustus De Morgan was Ada's main tutor
and a brilliant mathematician in his own right.
He founded the maths department at UCL, which is
the university that I work at. But he wasn't exactly progressive.
In a letter that he wrote to Ada's mother,
he explains why women are best to avoid doing hard maths.
"The reason is obvious," he writes.
"The very great tension of mind which they require
"is beyond the strength of a woman's physical power of application."
He does recognise Ada's talents,
though, at least, in a slightly backhanded compliment.
"Lady L has unquestionably as much power as would require
"all the strength of a man's constitution."
She studied voraciously.
At just 13, she became fascinated by flight,
and designed a mechanical bird that could flap its wings.
She was developing skills that were coveted
in the Victorian age of engineering -
inventiveness and scientific rigour - and by the young age of 17,
she was ready to show them off.
The stage her mother chose
was one of the most sought-after soirees of the day,
hosted by the famous inventor Charles Babbage
and attended by the great and the good.
A guest wrote at the time, "One of three qualifications were necessary
"for those who sought to be invited -
"intellect, beauty or rank."
The young Lady Lovelace had all three.
At the party,
Babbage was keen to unveil a new creation to his select audience.
He called it the difference engine,
the most ambitious mechanical calculator ever designed.
Its mathematical elegance impressed the young Ada.
And this is the actual machine that Ada would have seen at Babbage's.
Just a small sample of what it could have been,
had it been built fully, but enough to understand how it worked.
And enough to spark her imagination.
And maybe somewhere on there still,
there's a couple of Ada's fingerprints left over.
The machine would do the work of a whole army of mathematicians -
a body of men who were actually known as computers.
This was just one-seventh of an entire difference engine.
The full version, constructed from Babbage's plans,
can be seen at the London Science Museum.
There's a loose floorboard there.
'It's lovingly tended by curator Tilly Blyth.'
So, for the first time that I ever see it, where should I be standing?
I think it's nice to stand in the front so that you can see
-the whole machine working in harmony and have a real sense of it.
-But it's also beautiful from the back as well.
I'm genuinely excited about this.
So you've got the units at the bottom and then going up,
-tens and hundreds, right?
So every time you go past nine, you have to carry up the column?
Wow. Actually, that is incredible.
It must have seemed like mechanising thought itself, right?
They called it the thinking machine.
So what does the machine actually do, Tilly?
So the really incredible thing about this machine is, it works
using purely addition. It works using something called
the method of finite differences.
So this allows you to take any equation and work that through
using an approximation, but using only addition.
So in a way, I suppose this machine takes the equation,
breaks it down to smaller and smaller and smaller pieces,
until...you end up with something
so simple that it can be done by the turning of a cog?
Each one of those cogs is just doing addition to the next cog.
-Adding, adding, adding.
The method allows simultaneous work on a multitude of simple sums.
Tricky for the human brain to keep track of,
but perfect for the methodical workings of a machine.
When each addition passes through ten,
these hypnotic spirals carry the one up the column.
And at the end, the difference engine
automatically prints the answers into tables,
removing the risk of human error.
Why was it important?
So, in the 19th century,
people were using mathematical tables for all sorts of things.
They were using them for engineering,
they were using them for astronomy, but probably most importantly,
they were using these tables for navigation.
So sailors were referring to these mathematical tables
and if there were errors in them, then lives could be lost.
You know, people could be sailing to the wrong places.
'It's an ingenious machine, but this was not a computer.
'Rather, it was an incredibly advanced calculator.
'Precise up to 31 decimal places.'
-Could you do it one more time?
I'm going to stay on this side. This side's gorgeous.
'At the time Ada saw the difference engine,
'it was just the small demonstration piece.'
For many of the guests that night, it was an amusing curiosity.
But not for her. The debutante grasped its significance.
Wife of Ada's tutor, Mrs De Morgan, wrote of the night,
"When most of the guests looked on with the expression that
"savages show on seeing a looking glass, Miss Byron, young as she was,
"understood its working and saw the great beauty of the invention."
It was enough to ignite sparks between Babbage and Ada -
not sexual sparks, but intellectual ones
and the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
And Ada's excitement almost certainly gave Babbage extra vigour
to push forward with his audacious plans.
To build such a technologically advanced machine would need
The best engineer was hired to mill each of the 25,000 parts
to exacting tolerances.
It wasn't going to come cheap.
But if there was ever an era for extraordinary projects,
Babbage and Lovelace were in it.
Brunel was engineering the Great Eastern steamship.
Wheatstone had proposed the world's first telegraph system.
Darwin was transforming our understanding of how we had evolved.
And Faraday, Babbage's close friend,
was revealing the secrets of electricity.
Britain celebrated inventiveness.
But all of a sudden,
Babbage shelved his idea of a grand mechanical calculator.
Here at Royal Holloway, engineer Doron Swade
thinks he knows the reason for Babbage's change of heart.
Why did Babbage drop the idea of the difference engine, then?
The simple answer is, he had a better idea.
But the circumstances are rather curious.
He had a dispute which was unresolved with his engineer,
Joseph Clement, and by law in those days,
the engineer, or the toolmaker, owned the drawings.
The drawings belonged to him.
So Babbage could not recover the drawings, so there was an
enforced gap in his progression of his difference engine designs.
He was left without the drawings. He couldn't work on them.
Without his drawings, he then began to go back to the first principles
and say, well, what was he trying to do here?
And in the course of those reflections, he had the second idea
which is an engine that would vastly supersede in aspiration
and capability, and that was the analytical engine.
Babbage's new idea was audacious -
the most complicated machine ever conceived.
He called it the analytical engine, and it would define Ada's legacy.
So I've had a little look at the plans for the analytical engine.
And the first thing that really strikes you, especially
in comparison to the difference engine, is just the size of it.
I mean, this thing is vast.
It is enormous and probably one of the plans you might have
looked at is plan 25 from 1840.
This is the culmination of a major piece of work,
done from about 1834 onwards, and this is where he tried
to present to the world the overall conception of what he was about.
So this drawing is deeply, deeply significant.
In it, it shows a machine that is 15 foot high,
six foot in diameter, the main thing that did all the processing,
and then a store, a memory as we would now call it,
extending almost indefinitely.
Now, his entry-level machine... HANNAH LAUGHS
had 100 what we would call registers,
what he called variables - 100 of those.
Now, a machine with 100 variables would be 45 foot long
and 15 foot high, but he spoke of machines ten times bigger.
He spoke of machines with 1,000 variables.
Now, a machine with 1,000 variables
would be five times the complete length of this.
-That's 90 feet, roughly, from the end to here...
Five times that would be...
The entry-level machine would be 45 foot long, which is from
more or less where that stand is to the beginning of the red steps.
-So you are talking about a monster.
The analytical engine was so huge,
Babbage designed it to be driven by steam.
But what made it superior to the difference engine
wasn't its size, but a small, ingenious detail.
The other thing I noticed when looking at the plans -
and you have to correct me if I'm wrong here -
but something I thought was kind of extraordinary about these plans was,
in all of the vastness of this machine,
there's one thing that really stands out
that makes it a computer, really.
So I had my colleagues print up a sort of mock-up version of this
and I was wondering if you could explain it for us.
-The conditional arm.
But this illustrates the principle of conditional branching.
It sounds a complex thing - if/then.
If this is true, do this. If it's not true, do something else.
So there's a branch. You can take one or another course of action.
-It's making a decision, it is a decision.
So it can root its way through, if you like, a decision space.
So the idea is that this stud or dowel moves forward
and interrogates the space, says, "Is there anything in that space?"
So it moves forward.
-If this stud, the slug, is absent, nothing happens.
It stops short and nothing happens.
If this dowel is present,
then that dowel moving forward will activate this lever.
So whether or not this is present,
it will or will not activate that lever.
Now, this is terribly important for,
one is a general principle of computing that it can do branching.
-That still exists today.
So if you did, for example, ten divided by three.
It would go ten, seven,
-four, one, minus two.
And then the next time that thing said, "Have you gone negative?",
it would say, "Oops" and activate something that would multiply by ten
-and do the whole thing.
-This is a revolutionary machine
in so far as it embodies almost all the logical principles
of a modern, digital, electronic computer which is completely...
Something in 1840, it's astonishing.
Babbage's plans for a steam-driven computer
went far beyond the comprehension of his contemporaries.
He dreamt that one day, banks of such engines would industrialise
the production of faultless mathematical tables,
calculated from any number of different equations.
It fired the imagination of his young prodigy - Ada Lovelace.
She threw herself into understanding the complexities of the machine
and eventually began to realise even more than Babbage himself
the full extent of what the analytical engine
could actually think about.
The mechanics - the hardware - were only half the story.
The computer needed software
if it were to be versatile enough to calculate any type of equation.
And it was here that Lovelace would reveal her genius.
Graphic novelist Sydney Padua is somewhat of an accidental expert
when it comes to Babbage and Lovelace.
What got you into Ada Lovelace in the first place?
It was a complete accident.
I did a very short biographical comic
and just doing that little bio of, you know,
four pages or three pages or whatever, I became completely
mesmerised by this person and the machinery and the period.
The contrast was so violent and exciting,
and also they were just wonderful personalities.
I mean, I just really liked them as people.
Her character, did it complement Babbage?
I mean, in a sense they were very similar people, you know,
-they were quite literal-minded, they were very...
Headstrong, stubborn, independent, they knew what they wanted.
She liked to pursue her obsessions.
When she really wanted to find something out,
she wouldn't rest until she got to the bottom of it.
-Let me see your drawing.
-There you go.
I love it. She's not exactly ladylike in that one.
Why is she wearing trousers?
You can't wear skirts in the engines.
-That'll be completely impractical.
It's a very serious hazard there.
Not one for hanging around,
Ada went on a tour of the cotton mills of the north of England
immediately after Babbage showed her the plans.
She came to see this...
..the Jacquard loom.
A state-of-the-art device that automated the weaving
of patterned silk.
Babbage had an idea to repurpose the technology
to instruct his new analytical engine.
I'll show you how it works. If you come through this way.
May like to stand over there, get a good view.
Now, very simply, the Jacquard is up the top
and it's selecting which strings to lift up.
So when you press the treadle, you'll hear a clunk up the top
but you'll see these strings lift up.
So you can see the design building up and we've now got a leaf there.
-Actually relatively quick.
-Quicker than I was expecting.
The Jacquard mechanism meant complicated patterns
could be manufactured by unskilled workers,
the loom being controlled by a series of punch cards.
The punch card goes on top and each of these lines up with a little pin.
A hole, the pin just goes right through.
-No hole, the pin is pushed.
So if you push it down then you'll see,
according to the pattern on the cards,
some of the little levers will go in, some won't.
So now suddenly, whatever was on the card
-has been translated into these hooks moving up and down.
So that difference then - hole, no hole -
is the thing that causes something to happen back here.
Yeah. It's a kind of binary.
This was the height of technology in a fast modernising world.
What do you think people were making of these machines at that time?
-How do they feel about them?
I think a lot of people found them quite unsettling,
if you kind of read period descriptions of it, you know,
they sound a bit nervous about it.
Where might this lead?
You know, this is where you start seeing people comparing humans
It does everything automatically, it turns automatically,
it selects all the threads automatically.
-Almost like it's making decisions.
I mean, the machine is literally selecting the threads.
The automation of skilled labour was controversial.
A group of textile workers known as Luddites
protested that the technology would steal their jobs.
Ironically, Ada's father, Lord Byron,
was a vocal supporter of their movement.
She had no such worries,
but saw how the punch cards could work
with Babbage's new analytical engine.
The punch cards bring in this element of choice, actually.
The power is in whoever programmed the card.
Ada was fascinated by the men making the cards.
They were translating complicated patterns, such as a flower petal,
into a simple language the loom could understand.
Hole, no hole.
The world's first binary machine code.
She later wrote,
"We may say most aptly that the analytical engine
"weaves algebraic patterns
"just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves."
Her enforced scientific upbringing was paying dividends.
If Ada's early education was driven, sometimes cruelly,
by her mother's wishes to purge her of her father's poetical madness,
then Ada's twenties were fired by mathematical ambition.
She once told her mother that she wanted to compensate
for Byron's misguided genius.
In fact, she said,
"If he has transmitted to me any portion of his genius,
"then I will use it to bring out great truths and principles."
So over the next ten years,
as well as getting married and having three children,
she used her intellect to absorb and uncover the maths needed
to demonstrate the abilities of the analytical engine.
She also started to grasp what Babbage's engine
might be truly capable of.
The problem was, her relationship with Babbage was not equal.
He was the lecturer and she the student.
Then, in 1842, she got a chance to turn the tables.
Babbage was woefully inadequate at promoting his machine,
and, in fact, much of what we know about the analytical engine
comes from this key book.
It started with Ada's translations of the writings
of an Italian military engineer
after he attended one of Babbage's rare lectures
and it's entitled Article XXIX.
"Sketch of the analytical engine invented by Charles Babbage Esquire,
"by L F Menabrea of Turin, Officer of the Military Engineers."
Luigi Menabrea's notes were impressively detailed,
but, like Babbage, he limited the capabilities of the engine
only to mathematics, making for a tough read.
It must have driven her mad.
She knew the engine way better than this Luigi guy
and yet here she was, having to churn it out like a secretary.
"Now, to conceive how these operations may be
"reproduced by a machine,
"suppose the latter to have three dials designated as A, B, C
"on each of which are traced, say a thousand divisions,
"by way of example, over which a needle shall pass."
Babbage suggested to Ada that this might be a wasted opportunity
and that she should add some of her own thoughts
to accompany the translation.
She went at it, in her words, "like a devil possessed."
Day and night, Ada toiled.
For nine months, she formulated her thoughts
on not so much how the analytical engine worked,
but rather the computational possibilities
of such a powerful machine.
Ada's notes ended up being twice the length of the original
and there are even some moments
where she seems to be addressing Babbage directly.
She talks about the use of the punch cards and even gives some examples
of configurations. And here, she even writes a program
for how to create Bernoulli numbers.
Now, Bernoulli numbers are a sequence of numbers
that are important in mathematics, but what Ada's done is written
almost a recipe for how to make these numbers.
A series of step-by-step instructions
that can be read by the engine.
At the age of 27, Lovelace had articulated the language
that could construct the machine to weave her algebraic patterns.
I suppose it's a bit controversial to say exactly where
the balance of credit lies between Ada and Babbage for this program.
Ultimately, it was Babbage's machine,
so he must have known how the program worked.
But what you can't argue with is that this book makes Ada
the world's first published computer programmer in 1843.
But, for me, it's not where her real contribution lies.
Her notes show Ada was understanding
how to unlock the full potential of a computing machine.
Mathematicians see the world in a very particular way.
As much as you can appreciate a day like this,
you also see the mathematical patterns everywhere around you.
Everything from the movement of the sun in the sky
to the surface tension in the ripples on the water
and the fractal nature of the trees.
And Ada, as a mathematician, would have been exactly the same.
But it's not just in the natural world.
If she was listening to music, she would have heard the harmonics
and thought about the mathematical patterns that underpin
the way that the notes are created.
She realised because Babbage's machine could manipulate numbers
and the world is made of numbers,
the analytical engine could manipulate anything.
Ada had this leap of imagination that saw the machine
as way beyond just a calculator.
In her notes she writes, "The engine might compose elaborate
"and scientific music of any degree of complexity or extent."
She envisages the analytical engine as way more than Babbage,
who essentially just saw it as an enormous mechanical number-cruncher.
Where Babbage just saw numbers...
..she also saw music.
For her, the analytical engine was a tool to investigate unseen worlds.
The mathematics that underpin us all.
She knew it had the potential to change the world.
She wrote, "A new and powerful language is developed
"for the future use of analysis."
Ada had voiced the aspirations and possibilities of computing.
Babbage was astounded by her vision.
"The more I read your notes, the more surprised I am
"and regret not having earlier explored
"so rich a vein of the noblest metal."
Babbage wrote a letter to Michael Faraday in which he describes her
as "that enchantress who's thrown her magical spell
"over the most abstract of sciences
"and has grasped it with a force few masculine intellects
"could have exerted over it."
To understand how she was able to make this leap of thought,
it's important to remember the inventiveness of the time
that she lived in
and also who her father was.
Ada had creativity in her blood and was educated in science.
She understood that the numbers on the engine could be replaced
with symbols and represent something other than just quantities.
She was on the brink of a new age of discovery.
But that's not how it turned out.
So what went wrong?
To really prove the concept of a computerised world,
money needed to be raised to build the analytical engine,
but that wasn't going to be easy with Babbage in control.
He'd already been given a considerable sum
of government money to build his previous machine
and yet he delivered no engine,
nor any change from the £17,000 that they'd given him,
roughly the cost of two Royal Navy warships at the time.
There was much disquiet in parliament
over the apparent waste of government money.
None of this was helped by Babbage's irascible personality.
He could be a really difficult man and was constantly getting
into arguments with politicians over money.
After one particularly ferocious row with the Prime Minister at the time,
Robert Peel, Peel made his thoughts known in a letter.
"What shall we do to get rid of Mr Babbage and his calculating machine?
"It would be worthless as far as science is concerned."
With Babbage at the helm,
it looked like the analytical engine was dead in the water.
And then up stepped Lady Lovelace.
Ada had a plan to get the analytical engine funded.
She knew that she was famous, eloquent,
frighteningly bright and the only person in the world
that had recognised the full potential of the engine,
not just for science but for the Empire.
Her proposal to Babbage was going to be a sensitive subject.
In a letter dated 14th August, 1843,
after a few platitudes, she broached it.
"I must now come to a practical question in respecting the future.
"Would there be any chance of you allowing myself
"to conduct the business for you,
"your own undivided energies being devoted to
"the execution of the work?"
Basically, you stick to building the thing
because you're a liability when it comes to getting it made.
"You will wonder over this last query,
"but I strongly advise you not to reject it."
Her somewhat presumptuous tone reflects the passion
she felt for the engine.
Writing her notes had revealed the possibilities
of a wondrous future,
one she was desperate to bring to life.
But it appears that Ada had crossed a line with Babbage.
He refused all of her conditions and any relinquishment of control.
He said no.
It's not clear why her friend and mentor turned his back on her.
But I suspect she understood.
She'd chosen to make her name in science...
..traditionally an all-male domain.
Even her tutor, Augustus De Morgan,
impressed as he was by Ada's ability, thought that she would
fatigue herself with a struggle of mind and body.
It's likely that Babbage assumed that if he couldn't raise the money,
then Lovelace certainly couldn't.
Women in Victorian society were not seen as equals.
With her scientific ambitions in jeopardy,
she came here and started gambling.
It raises the intriguing possibility that she was trying to raise money
for her beloved analytical engine.
I don't think that Ada had gone completely bonkers just yet anyway.
Instead, she was thinking about the gambling
from a mathematical perspective in the way that she always did.
Now, if you look at gambling mathematically,
suddenly you don't really care about the reality of the situation,
the noise of the hooves or the emotion of placing a bet itself.
Instead, it's as though you're just thinking about numbers
on a page in a kind of dispassionate way, almost.
-So, nine runners.
And the latest betting, Secret Missile gets 4/1.
Logic over emotion.
Exactly how Ada had been trained.
She knew even the smallest miscalculations
by the bookmakers could be exploited.
She was gambling that her maths was better than theirs.
Biographer Ben Woolley has researched
this particularly shady part of Lovelace's life.
-What are your odds?
So that means if you put, well,
if you put a fiver on, you're going to be getting...
-Christophermarlowe, Christophermarlowe, I think.
Can I have a fiver...? Ooh, no, fiver on Christophermarlowe.
£5 win, number one, Christophermarlowe.
There's your ticket, darling. Thank you very much.
What does he even look like?
This is exactly what you shouldn't do
if you're a mathematician, is just pick a horse based on its name.
Yeah, I know. Well, that's the element of risk.
Well, it's good fun anyway.
So, why was she gambling in the first place?
Why did she become so attracted to the horse races at all?
Well, one speculation, one possibility is the reason
that she got into gambling in this big way was because
she wanted to raise the money for the analytical engine.
Since Babbage had come up with this amazing machine,
this sort of precursor of the modern computer,
this mechanical computer, and she'd written these notes about it,
she'd become very personally involved in the whole thing
and perhaps she saw this as an opportunity of raising
the enormous amount of money needed to, you know, bring it in
to fruition, to actually build the thing.
Was she doing this gambling alone?
Er, no, she had a little coterie of men surrounding her
which effectively acted as a gambling syndicate.
People like, erm... Well, there was a chap named Nightingale,
almost certainly Florence Nightingale's father.
Although it's all fairly secretive, the names,
it's not entirely clear who they are.
There's another one called John Crosse.
Is that the one who became her lover?
Yes, John Crosse was the son of Andrew Crosse,
who was this famous electrical scientist,
some speculate inspiring the figure of Frankenstein.
They provided the money
because she didn't have access to the money herself.
But she was quite a wealthy woman, though, wasn't she?
She wasn't a wealthy woman in the sense
that she didn't have control over her own money.
Her mother had arranged that she didn't get her hands
basically on the family fortune.
The success of the analytical engine might have been resting
on the results of these horse races.
-Go on, Christophermarlowe!
-He's so chilled out.
-You can have my £8.64.
Made a profit of £3.64.
That was a risk worth taking.
OK, go and pick up the winnings. The vast winnings.
All £3.64 of it.
Can I have my winnings, please?
-It's the big bucks.
-It's the big bucks. What a win.
There's a bonus there, look, because I haven't got any silver.
-Aw, you're too kind to me.
-Well done. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much. We got a bit lucky there.
-Yeah, we've even got some extra.
But how did Ada do?
Ada did very badly indeed.
She had this series of bets that she put on in the spring season of 1851
right here on that turf and it went very, very wrong.
It resulted in her owing £3,200.
Which in the 1850s is a lot of money, isn't it?
Yeah, a lot of money.
It's probably around half a million pounds.
Especially to someone who only had pocket money, really, to go on.
Yeah, she ended up owing thousands of pounds
to some pretty dodgy characters, some of whom were, you know,
trying to extort money out of her by suggesting that they were
revealing what she'd done with her gambling and so on,
who had to be paid off. It got very sticky for her by that stage,
but she seemed to raise some of her own contributions to this
by pawning the family's jewels for up to 800 quid.
So then, do you think that Ada had just lost the system?
Do you think that she'd allowed herself to be carried away
-with the emotion of the event?
-Well, I think, yes,
it was that sort of perilous combination of mathematics
and recklessness, of risk and maths,
the hope that she could use sort of the rational methods
that she'd learned through her mathematics
in this kind of risky environment and it came off very badly for her.
Ada's syndicate had trusted in her mathematical prowess
but they hadn't counted on
the emergence of an old Byron family vice...
..a love of taking risks.
Her demise was swift.
She'd worked hard all her life,
a woman in a man's world.
Now, just ten years after writing her manifesto
for a computer revolution, her dream was slipping away.
"My kingdom is not to be a temporal one, thank heavens!
"Labour is its own reward.
"And it is perhaps well for the world that my line and ambition
"is over the spiritual
"and not that I've taken it into my head or lived in times
"and circumstances calculated to put it into my head
"to deal with the sword, poison and intrigue
"in the place of X, Y and Z.
"That brain of mine is something more than mortal, as time will show.
"The devil's in it if I've not sucked out
"some of the lifeblood from the mysteries of this universe.
"No-one knows what almost awful energy lies yet undeveloped
"in that wiry little system of mine.
"I say awful because you can imagine what it might be
"under different circumstances.
"Your fairy forever, AAL."
Ada remained supremely confident of her ability.
However, the one thing Lady Lovelace lacked was time.
In 1852, Ada fell gravely ill.
She took to her bed in this very room.
As she lay dying, painfully and slowly,
from what we now know was almost certainly a cancer of the womb,
she confessed to her mother about her gambling debts.
Now, when she finally did die, Ada was just 36 years old,
exactly the same age her father had been at his death.
Her life had been full of regret.
Her determination to rise from the shadows of her father
had seemingly come to little.
Her extraordinary manifesto was largely forgotten.
Even Babbage rarely talked about it.
History was shutting her out.
There's one final twist in Ada's story
which I think is particularly telling,
her last wish before she died.
Against her mother's will, she insisted on being taken
miles away from her home.
Her wish was to be buried in this tomb alongside the man
she hadn't seen since she was a baby, her father, Lord Byron.
Cheating husband, poetical genius
and supporter of the Luddites.
Now, no-one really knows why she made this decision.
Perhaps she was trying to exert some control in death
that she lacked in life.
Perhaps it was a final attempt at a lasting legacy.
But to my mind at least, Ada, the daughter of art and science,
who struggled so much with the coldness of her mother in life,
longed for the warmth of her father.
"Is thy face like thy mother's, my fair child
"Ada! Sole daughter of my house and heart?
"When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smiled
"And then we parted - not as now we part
"But with a hope."
Her coffin, adorned with a crown, was laid beside Lord Byron.
Ada Lovelace returned to the shadow of her more famous father,
her contribution to science buried.
It took over a century for her genius to be resurrected.
It was the height of World War II,
a time of national peril.
Here at Bletchley Park, amidst great secrecy,
a team of scientists were experimenting
with thinking machines.
One key pioneer took a keen interest in Ada's ideas of computer science -
Alan Turing, the brains behind this machine.
Now, it had taken over a century,
but this was finally an example of mechanised thought in action.
Turing was fascinated by how a machine could be made to understand
and act upon instructions,
just as Ada had been 100 years earlier.
He designed this particular machine,
codenamed the Bombe,
and instructed it to run through combinations
and look for patterns in data.
It would prove vital in cracking encrypted messages
of Hitler's armed forces.
Turing had had the same idea as Ada,
the ability to interchange numbers and symbols in a computerised world.
In many ways, Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace were kindred spirits.
Both saw further than any of their peers
as to the true versatility of computers.
Turing did his early work without having seen Ada's notes,
but he came across them in the 1940s.
Now, that must have been an amazing moment,
almost like a dialogue between two like-minded people across history.
Now, Turing wrote about Ada's work and her far-reaching ideas
and it's thanks to him
that she's become known as a pioneer of computers.
So how should we remember Lady Ada Lovelace?
This was somebody with enormous talent,
in an extraordinary environment,
hugely privileged, with a background that made her
a celebrity from birth, struggling for balance.
How could she make meaning of her life? And the meaning she sought
was to be a savant, to be somebody who could interpret the world.
And I suppose in that sense
-her accomplishments are undeniable, right?
She wrote about the engine, what it signified
and what it meant in ways that Babbage never did.
In all of his 11 volumes of published writings,
nowhere does he write about the aspirations
and potential of computing in the way that Lovelace does.
And this is not a suggestive hint,
this isn't a backwards projection from our own age
onto the blank canvas of the past,
this is Lovelace thumping the table, saying,
"This is what is significant about this machine."
The modern world now teems with computers. They're everywhere,
often hidden as miniaturised microchips.
If we don't take them totally for granted,
we certainly aren't surprised that they can do so much more
than simple number-crunching.
Ada had seen this, the extraordinary flexibility of computers,
nearly 200 years ago.
It would have been quite something,
a Victorian information age with hardware driven by steam
and software with the power to unpick the fabric of reality,
dreamt up by Ada Lovelace.
Ada Lovelace was a most unlikely computer pioneer. In this film, Dr Hannah Fry tells the story of Ada's remarkable life. Born in the early 19th century, Ada was a countess of the realm, a scandalous socialite and an 'enchantress of numbers'. The film is an enthralling tale of how a life infused with brilliance, but blighted by illness and gambling addiction, helped give rise to the modern era of computing.
Hannah traces Ada's unlikely union with the father of computers, Charles Babbage. Babbage designed the world's first steam-powered computers - most famously the analytical engine - but it was Ada who realised the full potential of these new machines. During her own lifetime, Ada was most famous for being the daughter of romantic poet Lord Byron ('mad, bad and dangerous to know'). It was only with the advent of modern computing that Ada's understanding of their flexibility and power (that they could be far more than mere number crunchers) was recognised as truly visionary. Hannah explores how Ada's unique inheritance - poetic imagination and rational logic - made her the ideal prophet of the digital age.
This moving, intelligent and beautiful film makes you realise we nearly had a Victorian computer revolution.