Ada Lovelace’s name may have been revived within tech circles in recent years, not least thanks to the women in tech awareness day held in her name since 2009.
But one woman says she is fighting the “serious lack of women in history” by bringing the ‘world’s first computer programmer’ back to life, eyeing London’s West End.
Zoe Philpott has rather appropriately crowdfunded to get her one-woman show Ada Ada Ada on the road to showcase one of STEM’s quieter heroes.
“The Ada Lovelace story is amazing and will inspire people to look beyond the usual role models. She was thinking of a future that was yet to exist,” Philpott says.
“It’s not enough to talk to young people about STEM so I’m telling a story about someone who kicked arse and changed the world.”
Lovelace’s contribution to early computer programming, particularly her work with mentor Charles Babbage, is still disputed.
But Philpott says we have Lovelace to thank for the ‘if this, then that’ conditionals we rely on today.
Lovelace’s efforts were recognised by her contemporary Michael Faraday, but it’s only the latter who has a unit of measurement named in his honour.
Philpott, boh techie and luvvie, has enlisted a clothes designer, plus a technologist, to create a wearable tech costume fit for this 21st century revival.
“The show merges past and present, while also looking at the impact of today’s technology,” Philpott explains, no doubt the line ‘poetical scientist’ Lovelace would have taken if she were alive today.
“I want to use tech that would make Ada proud.”
The interactive storyteller, who hasn’t performed in a theatre for 10 years because of its “bad public press”, recently raised just over £5,000 to get Ada on the first leg of her journey.
That’s fully clothed for a free show at the London Science Museum on 28 October, complete with 650 metres of conductive thread powering a glove that operates her LED dress.
Then Philpott, and Lovelace, are on the road up to Manchester’s Science Festival for a show on 30 October.
Ultimately Philpott wants to get to the West End, along with creating a crowdfunding campaign for five statues of women in tech.
“There are male baseball players, musicians… but where are the statues I relate to? Ada was essentially written out of history so I want to update it with her story, along with several others, one at a time.”
2015 is the bicentenary of Lovelace’s birth, the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, who quickly abandoned his family. She died in 1852 aged 36.
“Ada was working against the odds,” Philpott concludes. “Things don’t need to stay the same.”