Conceiving Ada (1997)

Genres - Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Feminist Film  |   Run Time - 84 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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In 1980 the U.S. Department of Defense named the Ada programming language in honor of Lord Byron's daughter, the mathematician Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852), credited as the "first computer programmer" because of her plan for calculating Bernoulli numbers. Lady Ada was 18 when she met Charles Babbage and learned about his Analytical Engine. She expanded his concepts into an 1843 article on the subject, and she also predicted the sound and graphics possibilities of computers. This science-fiction film features Ada Byron King as the central figure. Directed by video artist Lynn Hershman Leeson, the co-director of Shooting Script: A Transatlantic Love Story (1992), it also includes a few cast members known for cyber-communications, such as Timothy Leary (filmed nine days before his death) and John Perry Barlow (Grateful Dead lyricist and Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder), plus "electronic Victorian" music by The Residents (who moved from pure sonic explorations to CD-ROM virtual experiences). Artificial intelligence researcher Amy Coer (Francesca Faridany) uses cybertechnology tactics to probe the past in hopes of locating Ada Byron King (Tilda Swinton), her spiritual mentor. Receiving input, time-tracking tips, and guidance from cyber-guru Sims (Timothy Leary), Amy is successful, and the two women communicate over the centuries, although Ada is initially puzzled. Comparing notes, they find gender is a setback, since Charles Babbage (John O'Keefe) receives recognition while Ada's ideas are forgotten. Amy's research encounters roadblocks set up by her boyfriend Nicholas Clayton (J.D. Wolfe). Amy is pregnant and plans to name her child Ada, hoping that she can overcome the long-standing gender barriers. Shown at 1997 film festivals (Sundance, Toronto).



artificial-intelligence, time-travel, computers