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  Author sightings, partner events, and other notable happenings.  

Two pioneers of computer programming were born in the month of December: Ada Lovelace on December 10, 1815, and John Backus on December 3, 1924. I share a birthday with Lovelace and Backus died four years ago just a few miles from where I live, so I think of them at this time of year. But there are several better reasons to celebrate their birthdays.

Wherever you stand on the “first programmer” claim, Ada is certainly a model for women in technology. As a child she showed great interest and promise in mathematics, and one of her tutors (no less than Augustus De Morgan) praised her originality and suggested that she might become a first-rate mathematician. Struggling with illness most of her brief life, working on mathematical problems while raising children, she nevertheless grasped the workings of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine so thoroughly that she was able to document it and code algorithms that would have run on the machine if Babbage had ever been able to build it. Babbage called her “The Enchantress of Numbers.”

John Backus created FORTRAN, the first widely-used high-level programming language. He developed the hugely important Backus-Naur Form (BNF), a formal notation in which one can define any context-free programming language. He was one of the first people to promote a functional style of programming and even created a functional language, FP, whose innovations are still visible in functional programming languages today. His work won him a Turing Award.

I’m raising a birthday glass to Ada Lovelace and John Backus. -Michael Swaine

Author Appearances

Who’s where, and what for.

O’Reilly Events

Upcoming events from our friends at O’Reilly.

  • Feb 13–15, TOC, New York, NY
    O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference 2012: “O’Reilly’s TOC Conference is where the publishing and tech industries converge, as practitioners and executives from both camps share what they’ve learned from their successes and failures, explore ideas, and join together to navigate publishing’s ongoing transformation.”
  • Feb 28–Mar 1, Strata Conference, Santa Clara, CA
    O’Reilly Strata Conference: “Strata brings together practitioners, researchers, IT leaders and entrepreneurs to discuss big data, Hadoop, analytics, visualization, and data markets.”


What’s coming from our USENIX friends.

  • Dec 12–16, Middleware 2011, Lisbon, Portugal
    ACM/IFIP/USENIX 12th International Middleware Conference: “The scope of the conference is the design, implementation, deployment, and evaluation of distributed system platforms and architectures for future computing and communication environments.”
  • Feb 5–8, NDSS 2012, San Diego, CA
    19th Annual Network & Distributed System Security Symposium: “The Network and Distributed System Security Symposium fosters information exchange among researchers and practitioners of network and distributed system security.”
  • Feb 14–17, FAST ’12, San Jose, CA
    10th USENIX Conference on File and Storage Technologies: “FAST ’12 brings together storage system researchers and practitioners to explore new directions in the design, implementation, evaluation, and deployment of storage systems.”