Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace
Ada Lovelace

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, when we celebrate the achievements of women in science and engineering. I am not a scientist or an engineer, but I do work in an industry that’s overwhelmingly male-dominated at every level, and one thing Ada Lovelace Day tries to do is to encourage more women into those spheres which are traditionally occupied by men. I have met women software engineers over the years, but I’ve only worked with three or four, as opposed to dozens of men – and that includes my spells at large, forward-looking, right-thinking organisations of the kind you might hope and expect would encourage a more equal gender split.

It’s too late for me: I can look at code and understand (sometimes) what it’s doing, but I’ve tried to learn to write it and I hit a mental block that goes: this is silly, [whoever I’m sitting nearest] could do this much faster and I could get on with the stuff I’m actually good at. But the only reason [whoever is sitting nearest] is faster and better is that he started doing it when he was a teenager, and has been learning ever since. So if you have, or know, or are, a teenage girl, get to it now! There are lots of places to start: school is probably one of them, and there’s also Code Academy which seems to work for lots of people (I confess, I got stuck on week three, but don’t take me as a guide), and a whole internet full of free lessons on everything. I would love it if, in twenty years’ time, we could get to the point where when someone says “I hired a new software engineer last week”, people would be shocked if someone said (as they always do) “Oh yeah? Who is he?”

If you aren’t, or don’t have or know, a teenage girl, go and read about Ada Lovelace anyway. It’s quite a life.

Taipei 101 revisited

There was a programme on BBC2 this evening about Taipei 101, the counterweighted skyscraper I wrote about a few months ago.  If you can endure Richard Hammond (who, separated from the others, is fairly inoffensive, though I prefer the wild-haired one and have no time at all for Clarkson), it’s worth checking out on the iPlayer.  The show focuses on the various feats of engineering which went into the building’s construction, and I was pleased to discover that the story of the building is just as fascinating as the finished product.

It also has the world’s fastest elevator, which travels at the unlikely speed of 1010 metres per minute.  I’ve had my ears pop in Japan’s fastest elevator, in the Yokohama Landmark Tower, but at a piffling 750 metres a minute it barely compares.  (Though looking it up now I discover that it’s also the world’s second-fastest elevator.)

Anyway, I’ve never been to Taiwan, though I’d like to,  so I don’t have any photos of Taipei 101.  Instead, here’s a photo of the view from the top of the Yokohama Landmark Tower, reflected in a mirror inside the viewing gallery: