“That thing just sits on my desk and stares at me with that idiotic blinking light on the screen,” says a woman in a floral printed dress to her husband over morning coffee, in a video WOMAN VERSUS COMPUTER!. That “thing” is a computer. Given the current ubiquity of computers, this remark is unusual. It makes more sense coming from the 1980s or 90s–WOMAN VERSUS COMPUTER! was created by the collective Everything Is Terrible! which mixes VHS footage from that time into short internet videos.
In WOMAN VERSUS COMPUTER!, the woman is visited by the ghost of Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace, a mathematician who is considered the first computer programmer. Lovelace was British-born, and the poet Lord Byron was her father; she lived from 1815 to 1852. She worked with inventor Charles Babbage whose Analytical Engine was an early model for a computer which was programmable. Lovelace’s notes on the Engine’s functions are the first algorithms.
In 1980, a new programming language was named Ada in her honor. The second Tuesday of October is Ada Lovelace Day, which is celebrated in Britain as well as the U.S. In 1997, Sloan-supported filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson made CONCEIVING ADA about the Countess of Lovelace.
On January 29, Science & Film will be presenting a screening of Leeson’s other feature film, TEKNOLUST, at Museum of the Moving Image.