Thursday, 10 December 2015

The World’s First Computer Program

We are pleased to host Laurie Wallmark, with her book Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, on her blog book tour. Laurie is a children's book author and we were privileged to interview her here at Tech Age Kids, last month.

Long before the invention of the modern electronic computer, long before laptops and tablets and smart phones, there was a mechanical computer, the Analytical Engine. Ada Byron Lovelace wrote the world’s first computer program to run on this machine designed by Charles Babbage.

Unfortunately, since Babbage never built his Engine, Ada was never able to see her program in action.

So what exactly is a computer program? Computers aren’t very smart, so they need programs tell them what to do and how to do it. These instructions need to be specific and precise. As Ada herself said, “computers can’t think for themselves.’

Ada chose to write a program that solved a complex mathematical problem difficult to solve by hand—calculating Bernoulli numbers. Without the help of a computing machine, these numbers are extremely time consuming to figure out.

To write her program, Ada first had to develop a mathematical algorithm, a detailed plan to solve the problem. She started by breaking the problem into many small steps. Then she created a list of instructions that told the computer how to follow these steps. These instructions included which numbers to multiply, divide, add, and subtract, and in what order to do so. They even told the computer where and how to make decisions.

When modern-day computer scientists tested Ada’s lengthy program, they only found one minor error, which was easily corrected. Even though Ada never had the opportunity to test her program on a working computer, it was almost perfect.


(Creston Books, October 2015) is a picture-book biography of the world’s first computer programmer. Ada was born two hundred years ago, long before the invention of the modern electronic computer. At a time when girls and women had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams and studied mathematics. This book, by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu, tells the story of a remarkable woman and her work. Kirkus Reviews describes the book as a “splendidly inspiring introduction to an unjustly overlooked woman.” [starred review] Starred reviews also from Booklist and Publishers Weekly.

Laurie Wallmark writes exclusively for children. She can't imagine having to restrict herself to only one type of book, so she writes picture books, middle-grade novels, poetry, and nonfiction.

She is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. When not writing or studying, Laurie teaches computer science at a local community college, both on campus and in prison. The picture book biography, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, October 2015), is Laurie’s first book.

Join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine. All stops are listed at:

Image Credit: April Chu

Tech Age Kids Resource: Ada Lovelace Resources for Kids

More from Tech Age Kids:


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