Enter the maze

Looking to the Future

by Paul Curzon, Queen Mary University of London

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Ada Lovelace could see their potential long before a working computer was created.

  • She realised that they could be used to manipulate more than just numbers and so their potential was more than as merely a calculator. They now manipulate numbers, words, pictures, music, films and more.
  • She suggested they would one day be creative and be able to compose music. Programs that compose original music already exist.
  • She thought that puzzles like peg solitaire might be represented mathematically in a way that computers might be able to solve them. Computers can solve all sorts of puzzles.
  • She thought about how computers might be able to play games like Noughts and Crosses. It is one of the earliest games that artificial intelligence programs were successfully written to play. Now they can beat humans at virtually every game we ever invented.
  • She suggested computers would one day be able to do algebra and weave "algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves". We now call them theorem provers and they are used to help check complex software and hardware works.
  • She thought computers might work on mathematical problems coming up with results that no human had discovered. Programs are now commonly used by mathematicians and have proven new results.