Computers are not magical or mysterious. Their amazing abilities are built up from simple ideas. That’s what’s surprising. How did we arrive at today, with these devices in our pocket and a (nearly) global network connecting them, and with software running that allows it all to do so many useful and entertaining things?
Lady Ada, Countess of Lovelace wikipedia, was the first to get it. She understood, before any computers existed, that a machine with a few simple arithmetic abilities could do much more. (Notably, the men who were designing these calculating machines didn’t get it.) It would be about 100 years before the programmable computers she envisioned would be “invented”.
The invention of the transistor and the decades-long development of faster, lower-power and smaller integrated circuits of all types would eventually lead to supercomputers, cells phones, and the internet. But ruling it all was Lady Ada’s software.
The Internet is built of software. Websites and video games are made of software. Digital cameras, street lights, and airplanes are all made of software.
We also use software to make new software. The result is that today it’s easier to make a useful program than ever before.
For a great introduction to the simplicity and power of software, check out Hour of Code events near you. If you have an Apple Store near you, they are hosting Hour of Code workshops featuring Swift Playgrounds on iPads – they look fantastic. You can even host your own Hour of Code event. Check out the wonderful guide from Apple. Learn more about the History of Computing, and Lady Ada, at the Computer History Museum.