Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Wed 25th Mar, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day 2009

I feel moved by the many posts on Ada Lovelace Day to mention a woman I know who has inspired me in my love of computing and really taught me that there are no limits to what you can do with a bit of perseverance. Many of the people talked about in the posts I've linked to above are all deserving in their own right, and many of them are well-known for their great works in the field. Maybe I'm biased in talking about the person who has inspired me but I think it's justified.

I want to tell you about my mum, Jane Fountain.

I can't link to her web page, because she doesn't have one. Her main activities on computers have been emailing friends, doing the job of secretary for the Society for Growing Australian Plants, and archiving her digital photos; she still occasionally struggles with the technology. It's been several months since her mobile phone account expired and she's only recently noticed - so she might not initially appear to be a good person to think of when dealing with technology.

But: my mum works as a teacher aide at the Chapel Hill State Primary School. Two years ago they got some Lego Mindstorms, and of course the teachers and teacher aides are supposed to teach the children how they work. So mum - on her own initiative - took the kit home, learnt the manual, and programmed it in the living room over a weekend. She taught herself how to program them, how to debug them, and how to program - having never learnt a programming language or gotten closer to programming them than watching her sons.

And, over the years, she's encouraged my brother and I to learn about computers and to use our abilities to their fullest. She might doubt her abilities some times but when she has a task to do she applies herself with a will. Fifteen years ago I can remember her remarking about a friend who knew the botanical names for plants and she stated that she'd never be able to do that - now she not only knows the botanical names for everything she plants but she gets frustrated with people who say it's difficult! She's artistic, intelligent, skilled at a huge range of crafts, and every time I visit she shows me some new clever thing she's thought of to help the children at her school learn and enjoy learning. And she's humble into the bargain :-)

In short, my mum continually inspires me to learn more, to apply myself, to never say I can't do it, and to stick to it when I do. I think those are qualities Ada Lovelace herself would have admired.

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