For Sale Ada's First Program

Bonhams is set to auction a first edition of the world's first computer program, written by Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage in the 1840s, for $50 to $80 K.

When Lovelace translated an article by Luigi Federico Menabrea on Babbage's invention, the Analytical Engine, she added five notes on the theoretical capabilities of Charles Babbage's symbolic computer. This included her own groundbreaking idea to go beyond numeric calculation, creating music and art. This auction includes a letter from Lovelace to her mother, not seen in public since 1977, describing the Analytical Engine as a "wonderful invention". The first published computer program was written by Ada Lovelace, a mathematician, and writer, for Charles Babbage's proposed mechanical computer, the Analytical Engine. Lovelace's notes on the machine, published in 1843, included an algorithm intended to be processed by the machine, which would have been capable of calculating Bernoulli numbers. She also expanded on Babbage's views of the machine as a symbol-manipulating device rather than simply a processor of numbers. Lovelace suggested that the machine could arrange and combine numerical quantities like letters or other symbols. It could produce results in algebraic notation if the provisions were made accordingly. Lovelace signed her notes "A.A.L.", masking her class and gender in deference to the conventions of the time. Her authorship remained a mystery until Charles Weld credited them to "a lady of distinguished rank and talent" in his History of the Royal Society in 1848.