Op-Ed “Computers” : Ada Lovelace

One of my dear friends has recently taken on the development of something she calls a “time machine,” a device that would allow the user to traverse the span of all future and past, and she let me examine the function of this device. I traveled over many periods of history, and the most interesting time has shown itself to be the late next century. I have been made aware that the principles that Babbage and I laid out in our Analytical Engine have come to fruition, in a most wondrous way. These devices are constructed out of a curious assortment of colored bits and seem to be connected in a similar fashion to the current voltaic arrangements, with metal wires of copper. In a stunning difference to the methods that we laid out for the arrangement and dispersion of numerical operators, these machinations seem to use nothing that is outwardly noticeable at all. They have no warehouses of punch cards for the storage of numbers, but they do seem to still use paper punch cards in order to enter and return values. This is not the only method, however, they also are able to display text on glass sheets that glow with an unearthly colour. After a thorough inspection of these machines to the consternation of the people who are employed in attending them (they call themselves “computer programmers”), I found out that these machines are used mostly in the processing of company records and also are used for the endless amusement of the masses. It is understandable that an analytical machine would be useful for the keeping track of records and prices, but the amount of numbers and the various types of applications these numbers are put towards is amazing. What is not understandable is that the computer is distributed to the masses for the endless pursuit of nothing of value, they use their machines to display things that seem to be animated children’s books, but are responsive to operator input. They seem to waste much of their productive hours engaged in front of these machines, doing no work and being wholly unprofitable to society, an activity that should draw great consternation of the society they live in, but appears not to. It is not certain whether these people are the unfortunate byproduct of these cheap machines, or whether the machines enable them to put their minds to baser endeavors, but as a whole it does not seem as if this is the result that Babbage and I had wanted for society. At the same time, the machines are used for great purposes, putting nature into a form of numbers and describing outcomes of future events. Altogether, these versions of machines seem to be greatly more powerful and capable than anything dreamed of at the present, and whether or not they are useful for the advancement of our British people seems more uncertain than before.

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