Ada Lovelace Day
The 24th of March was Ada Lovelace day. I’m not sure why it was so designated, as Wikipedia claims Ada Lovelace was born on 10 December and died on 27 November. Regardless, many people celebrated it by writing about women in technology. This seems like a good idea on any day of the year, which is why I don’t feel left out in joining the crowd a day late.
The woman who most influenced my own journey in technology was my mother, Margie D’Valle. When I was born, she was working in a technical role for the US government. I believe she was called a “Computer Operator” at the time, which sounds a bit funny now that computing devices are so pervasive. She worked as a programmer, and later as a manager of programming teams. In addition to raising me and my sister as a single parent, she encouraged and enabled us from a young age to become “computer literate”, another term which soon sounded archaic.
Her programming work itself was largely invisible to me, being a proprietary system which was only used within a single organization, and I didn’t learn much about mainframe technology until much later. She sometimes told stories of programming, or debugging, or working late to get a release out, which have since been shared by many people, including myself. At the time, they had a certain element of fantasy, as if they existed in another world.
I think it’s wonderful that so many women can now be recognized for contributing to open source, where they can inspire millions of people around the world, for generations to come. I expect, however, that their influence has been greatest on the people they know best, and so it was for Margie. She helped me see how computer technology would change the world, and helped me to be a part of it.
I’m not sure what experiences she may have had with discrimination against women in her workplace, though the events of Ada Lovelace Day have made me curious to ask her. She has since retired from her job, but I’m sure that her code is still running, tirelessly performing the invisible but necessary work of keeping important government services alive. Such systems evolve slowly, and it may survive for many years to come.