Who we are

#TVforTeachers – Pick of the Week – Calculating Ada: the Countess of Computing

As part of ERA’s commitment to helping licence holders make best use of the material available to them, we have decided to start highlighting our ‘top pick’ each week. We’re hoping to reveal multiple educational uses for a single episode, series, or film with enough time to act as a ‘heads up’ for teachers to be able to record, or access the material.

This Wednesday at 8pm, BBC4 are re-airing the documentary Calculating Ada: the Countess of Computing. The programme looks at the life of Ada Lovelace, a programming and computing pioneer.

From the BBC:

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.

This programme would be useful for teaching the history of science and computing, but would also provide a useful history resource – exploring the ‘place’ and potential of women in the Victorian era.

Follow the hashtag #TVforTeachers or @EraResources for more lesson ideas.


Related links:

Great Loves: Konnie Huq on Ada Loveless (BBC Radio 4)

In Our Time: Ada Lovelace (BBC Radio 4), Melvin Bragg and guests discuss the legacy of the computer pioneer.

Inspired by Ada  (a BBC Radio collection) A collection on women in science, maths, and the internet – all inspired by Ada Lovelace.