Raspberry Pi Blog

This is the official Raspberry Pi blog for news and updates from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, education initiatives, community projects and more!

RecordShelf – vinyl selection lightshow spectacular

Mike Smith wanted to be able to locate specific records in his collection with ease, so he turned to a Raspberry Pi for assistance.

A web server running on the Pi catalogues his vast vinyl collection. Upon selecting a specific record, the appropriate shelf lights up, followed by a single NeoPixel highlighting the record’s location.

recordShelf demo 2

recordShelf helps organize and visualize dat about your record collection. This is my second video demonstrating it’s latest form.

The lights are controlled with Adafruit’s FadeCandy, a dithering USB controller driver with its own software that allows for easier direction of a NeoPixel. It also puts on a pretty nifty light show.

Records can be selected via artist, title, record label, a unique index number, or even vinyl colour. This also allowed for Mike to select all records in a specific category and highlight them at once; how many records by a specific artist or label, for example.


Further down the line, Mike is also planning on RFID support, allowing him to scan a record and have the appropriate shelf light up to indicate where it should be stored. Keep up to date with the build via the project’s Hackaday.io page.


Sisyphus: the kinetic art table

Surely if he had been given the opportunity, Sisyphus would have engineered a way out of his eternal punishment of rolling a boulder up a hill. It’s just too bad for him that Raspberry Pi wasn’t around to help. While it’s a far cry from his arduous task, the Pi has been used to power Bruce Shapiro’s Sisyphus, a continuous and ever-changing kinetic art piece that creates unique design patterns in sand using a small metal ball.


Sisyphus is truly mesmerising. We learned this first-hand: at Maker Faire New York earlier this month, it captured the attention of not only the Raspberry Pi crew, but also thousands of attendees throughout the weekend. Sisyphus momentarily drowned out the noise and action of the Faire.

You can think of Sisyphus as a cross between an Etch A Sketch and Spirograph, except this is no toy.

Under the table is a two-motor robot (the “Sisbot”) that moves a magnet which draws a steel ball through the sand. The motors are controlled by a small Raspberry Pi computer which plays a set of path files, much like a music player plays an MP3 file.


Bruce is using Kickstarter in the hope of transitioning Sisyphus from what’s currently a large art installation exhibited around the world into a beautiful piece to be enjoyed in the home, as both furniture and art.

annmarie thomas on Twitter

Sisyphus- Stunning art/furniture kickstarter (fully funded in <a day) by friend Bruce Shapiro. https://t.co/ijxHQ0fYb5

Bruce says:

Of all works I made, Sisyphus stood out – it was my first CNC machine to break out of the studio/shop. No longer tasked with cutting materials to be used in making sculptures, it was the sculpture itself. It was also unique in another way – I wanted to live with it in my home. I’ve spent the last three years perfecting a home version that’s beautiful, user-friendly, near-silent, and that will run for years.

Like most great Maker Faire projects, it’s centred around a wonderful community. The collaboration and access to tools in Shapiro’s local makerspace helped develop the final design seen today. While Shapiro’s original makerspace has since closed its doors, Shapiro and his fellow members opened up what is now Nordeast Makers. It’s where the production for Sisyphus will take place.


The Kickstarter products come in three styles: an end table, and two different coffee tables. You might want to find another place to display your coffee table books, though, so as to keep Sisyphus’s designs visible…


This Kickstarter won’t be running forever, so be sure to pledge if you love the sound of the Sisyphus.


Inspiring educators with a special MagPi!

If there’s one thing we’re passionate about here at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, it’s sharing our community’s passion for making with technology. Back in January, the Education team exhibited at the Bett Show with a special Educator’s Edition of our fabulous magazine, The MagPi. The goal was to share our projects and programmes with educators who could join our increasing community of digital makers. Like all our publications, a downloadable PDF was made available on our website; this was good thinking, as the magazine proved to be very popular and we ran out of copies soon after the show.

Exhibiting a the Bett Show 2016

Exhibiting at the Bett Show 2016 with the special Educator’s Edition of The MagPi

This year, we’ve been working hard to improve the support we provide to our Raspberry Pi Certified Educators when they take their first steps post-Picademy, and begin to share their new skills with their students or faculty on their own. In the past, we’ve provided printable versions of our resources or handed out copies of The MagPi. Instead of providing these separately, we thought it would be fun to bundle them together for all to access.

Digital making educators getting hands on with their builds at Picademy

Educators getting hands-on with their builds at Picademy

Thanks to the support of our colleagues in the MagPi team, we’ve been able to bring you a new and improved special edition of The MagPi: it’s aimed at educators and is packed full of new content, including tutorials and guides, for use in schools and clubs. You can download a free PDF of the second issue of the special Educator’s Edition right now. If you want a printed copy, then you’ll need to seek us out at events or attend a Picademy in the UK and US whilst we have them in stock!

Warning: contains inspiration!

Warning: contains inspiration!

Contents include:

  • The digital making revolution in education: how the maker movement has been taking the classroom by storm!
  • A case study: creative computing at Eastwood Academy
  • How to start a Code Club in your school
  • Physical computing tutorials with Python and Scratch
  • Teaching computing with Minecraft
  • Blinky lights, cameras, micro:bits, and motor tutorials
  • Sonic Pi live coding
  • What’s next for Astro Pi?
  • News about Raspberry Pi in education

Blinky lights tutorial page from MagPi

Case study page from MagPi about Eastwood Academy

The MagPi Educator’s Edition is freely licensed under Creative Commons (BY-SA-NC 3.0).


Five(ish) awesome RetroPie builds

If you’ve yet to hear about RetroPie, how’s it going living under that rock?

RetroPie, for the few who are unfamiliar, allows users to play retro video games on their Raspberry Pi or PC. From Alex Kidd to Ecco the Dolphin, Streets of Rage 2 to Cool Spot, nostalgia junkies can get their fill by flashing the RetroPie image to their Pi and plugging in their TV and a couple of USB controllers.

But for many, this simple setup is not enough. Alongside the RetroPie unit, many makers are building incredible cases and modifications to make their creation stand out from the rest.

Here’s five of what I believe to be some of the best RetroPie builds shared on social media:

1. Furniture Builds

If you don’t have the space for an arcade machine, why not incorporate RetroPie into your coffee table or desk?

This ‘Mid-century-ish Retro Games Table’ by Reddit user GuzziGuy fits a screen and custom-made controllers beneath a folding surface, allowing full use of the table when you’re not busy Space Raiding or Mario Karting.

GuzziGuy RetroPie Table

2. Arcade Cabinets

While the arcade cabinet at Pi Towers has seen better days (we have #LukeTheIntern working on it as I type), many of you makers are putting us to shame with your own builds. Whether it be a tabletop version or full 7ft cabinet, more and more RetroPie arcades are popping up, their builders desperate to replicate the sights of our gaming pasts.

One maker, YouTuber Bob Clagett, built his own RetroPie Arcade Cabinet from scratch, documenting the entire process on his channel.

With sensors that start the machine upon your approach, LED backlighting, and cartoon vinyl artwork of his family, it’s easy to see why this is a firm favourite.

Arcade Cabinet build – Part 3 // How-To

Check out how I made this fully custom arcade cabinet, powered by a Raspberry Pi, to play retro games! Subscribe to my channel: http://bit.ly/1k8msFr Get digital plans for this cabinet to build your own!

3. Handheld Gaming

If you’re looking for a more personal gaming experience, or if you simply want to see just how small you can make your build, you can’t go wrong with a handheld gaming console. With the release of the Raspberry Pi Zero, the ability to fit an entire RetroPie setup within the smallest of spaces has become somewhat of a social media maker challenge.

Ivan Villatoro used an old Burger King toy and Pi Zero to create one of the smallest RetroPie Gameboys around… and it broke the internet in the process.

Mini Gameboy Chase Lambeth

4. Console Recycling

What better way to play a retro game than via a retro game console? And while I don’t condone pulling apart a working NES or MegaDrive, there’s no harm in cannibalising a deceased unit for the greater good, or using one of many 3D-printable designs to recreate a classic.

Here’s YouTuber DaftMike‘s entry into the RetroPie Hall of Fame: a mini-NES with NFC-enabled cartridges that autoplay when inserted.

Raspberry Pi Mini NES Classic Console

This is a demo of my Raspberry Pi ‘NES Classic’ build. You can see photos, more details and code here: http://www.daftmike.com/2016/07/NESPi.html Update video: https://youtu.be/M0hWhv1lw48 Update #2: https://youtu.be/hhYf5DPzLqg Electronics kits are now available for pre-order, details here: http://www.daftmike.com/p/nespi-electronics-kit.html Build Guide Update: https://youtu.be/8rFBWdRpufo Build Guide Part 1: https://youtu.be/8feZYk9HmYg Build Guide Part 2: https://youtu.be/vOz1-6GqTZc New case design files: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1727668 Better Snap Fit Cases!

5. Everything Else

I can’t create a list of RetroPie builds without mentioning the unusual creations that appear on our social media feeds from time to time. And while you may consider putting more than one example in #5 cheating, I say… well, I say pfft.

Example 1 – Sean (from SimpleCove)’s Retro Arcade

It felt wrong to include this within Arcade Cabinets as it’s not really a cabinet. Creating the entire thing from scratch using monitors, wood, and a lot of veneer, the end result could easily have travelled here from the 1940s.

Retro Arcade Cabinet Using A Raspberry Pi & RetroPie

I’ve wanted one of these raspberry pi/retro pi arcade systems for a while but wanted to make a special box to put it in that looked like an antique table top TV/radio. I feel the outcome of this project is exactly that.

Example 2 – the HackerHouse Portable Console… built-in controller… thing

The team at HackerHouse, along with many other makers, decided to incorporate the entire RetroPie build into the controller, allowing you to easily take your gaming system with you without the need for a separate console unit. Following on from the theme of their YouTube channel, they offer a complete tutorial on how to make the controller.

Make a Raspberry Pi Portable Arcade Console (with Retropie)

Find out how to make an easy portable arcade console (cabinet) using a Raspberry Pi. You can bring it anywhere, plug it into any tv, and play all your favorite classic ROMs. This arcade has 4 general buttons and a joystick, but you can also plug in any old usb enabled controller.

Example 3 – Zach’s PiCart

RetroPie inside a NES game cartridge… need I say more?

Pi Cart: a Raspberry Pi Retro Gaming Rig in an NES Cartridge

I put a Raspberry Pi Zero (and 2,400 vintage games) into an NES cartridge and it’s awesome. Powered by RetroPie. I also wrote a step-by-step guide on howchoo and a list of all the materials you’ll need to build your own: https://howchoo.com/g/mti0oge5nzk/pi-cart-a-raspberry-pi-retro-gaming-rig-in-an-nes-cartridge

Here’s a video to help you set up your own RetroPie. What games would you play first? And what other builds have caught your attention online?


The Impact of Ten Million

This column is from The MagPi issue 50. You can download a PDF of the full issue for free, or subscribe to receive the print edition in your mailbox or the digital edition on your tablet. All proceeds from the print and digital editions help the Raspberry Pi Foundation achieve its charitable goals.

Babbage Bear lies spreadeagled on a heap of Raspberry Pis

Last month, the Raspberry Pi Foundation hit a major milestone by selling its ten millionth computer. Besides taking the opportunity to celebrate – and celebrate we did – it’s also a good time to reflect on the impact that the device has had over the last four and a half years. As you may know already, we don’t just make an ultra-affordable computer. Our mission is to put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world; the Raspberry Pi computer helps us do that.

There are many ways in which the Raspberry Pi has a positive impact on the world. It’s used in classrooms, libraries, hackspaces, research laboratories, and within the industrial environment. People of all ages use Raspberry Pi, in these contexts and others, to learn about computing and to create things with computers that we never could have imagined.

But I believe the biggest impact we’ve had was to encourage more people to experiment with computers once again. It used to be that in order to use a computer, you had to have fairly good knowledge of how it worked, and often you needed to know how to program it. Since then, computers have become much more mainstream and consumer-friendly. On the one hand, that change has had an incredible impact on our society, giving more people access to the power of computing and the internet. However, there was a trade-off. In order to make computers easier to use, they also became less ‘tinker-friendly’.

When I was a kid in the 1980s, our family had an old IBM PC in our basement, that was decommissioned from my father’s workplace. On that computer, I learned how to use the DOS prompt to work with files, I created my own menu system out of batch files, and most importantly, I learned my first ever programming language: BASIC.

I feel very lucky that I had access to that computer. That kind of early exposure had such a huge impact on my life. For years I continued to learn programming, both in school and in my own time. Even though I’ve benefited greatly from the mainstream, consumer-friendly technology that has since become available, I still use and build upon the skills that I learned as a kid on that IBM PC. Programming languages and hardware have changed a lot, but the fundamental concepts of computing have remained mostly the same.

The Next Generation

I expect that the Raspberry Pi has a very similar impact on young people today. For them, it fills the void that was left when computers became less like programmable machines and more like consumer products. I suspect that, just like with me, this impact will linger for years to come as these young people grow up and enter a workforce that’s increasingly dependent on their digital skills. And if even just a tiny bit of interest in computing is the spark, then I believe that a tinker-friendly computer like Raspberry Pi is the kindling.

Here’s where that ten million number comes into play. Admittedly, not everyone who is exposed to a Raspberry Pi will be affected by it. But even if you guess conservatively that only a small fraction of all the Raspberry Pis out in the world serve to inspire a young person, it still adds up to an incredible impact on many lives; not just right now, but for many years to come. It’s quite possible that many of tomorrow’s computer scientists and technology specialists are experimenting with a few of the first ten million Raspberry Pis right now.


Maker Faire New York 2016

It’s been five years since we made our first appearance at Maker Faire New York. Back in 2011, we were still showing demonstrations of the Raspberry Pi, prior to its release the following spring. This year, we had prominent billing alongside the robots and rockets!

Robots, rockets, and Raspberry Pi!

Robots, rockets, and Raspberry Pi!

Maker Faire New York ran from 1-2 October, and was as great an experience as ever. We brought a bunch of Raspberry Pis showcasing our brand-new Pixel desktop environment. Greg Annandale’s gorgeous photo of the Brooklyn Bridge was a stunning backdrop to the Sense HAT activities we had organised.

Lorna Lynch on Twitter

Doing some pixel art with @Raspberry_Pi at #MFNY16 #MakerFaire #MakerFaireNYC

Joining the stalwart US Pi team of Matt and Courtney were Carrie Anne, Sam, and Lorna, as well as Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Kerry Bruce, who came all the way from Albuquerque, New Mexico. A community college instructor with a passion for STEM education, Kerry was a real trouper and a valuable addition to the team.

When we arrived at Corona Park to get set up, we were concerned about the inclement weather. Given that the Faire is outside, the prospect of running our Pi activities in an open-sided marquee was somewhat daunting.

The team tried hard not to let the rain dampen their ardour for STEM...

The team tried hard not to let the rain dampen their ardour for science…

We braved the elements to take a photo in front of the famous Unisphere, to explore the park a bit, and to geek out over the history of the place. I can’t have been the only one who was excited to see the towers on the New York State Pavilion in real life, after multiple viewings of Men in Black.

Carrie Anne Philbin on Twitter

Team @Raspberry_Pi for #MakerFaire NY 2016! Come visit us and tell us about your makes!

Fortunately, the weather improved for the Faire; we didn’t have to remove electrical equipment from puddles! Resident design genius Sam decorated our tables with Pi-themed cartoons, including one answering this common question: how do you connect a Raspberry Pi to a computer?

Raspberry Pi on Twitter

Here’s what happens when @samalderhyde shows up at your event! #MakerFaire #wmfny16 @makerfaire

We loved pointing to Sam’s cheery Pi character when explaining that the tiny board was the computer. It was great to see people’s surprise at the Pi’s power.

Matt and Carrie Anne both gave speeches: Carrie Anne’s presentation, “Digital Making: Encouraging Creativity in the Classroom and Integrating STEAM Project-Based Learning”, was part of the Make: Education series, while Matt explained how to get started with the Raspberry Pi on the Show and Tell stage. 

Raspberry Pi on Twitter

Go see @MattRichardson at @makerfaire’s Show & Tell Stage at 11:30 (in 10 min). He’s giving a intro to Raspberry Pi.

We heard great reports from the attendees, and we saw a lot of visitors to the stand who had been enthused by what they heard. 

As in previous years, there were many excellent Raspberry Pi-based projects, as well as familiar faces from the Pi community. There was an excellent display of Pi-controlled Lego Mindstorms robots. We also met the guys from Pi Supply showcasing their new JustBoom equipment, bringing affordable high-quality audio to Raspberry Pi users. Eager experimenters of all ages came to try out our Sense HAT activities, and to tell us about the Pi projects they had made at home. One man was even wearing a Pi Zero as a necklace! Other visitors included Steven Welch, who updated us on the work his team are doing with Pis at CERN (we’ve blogged about this), and Henry Feldman of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who is using the Raspberry Pi and Camera Module for edge detection in laparoscopic surgery.

We also found a number of excellent projects with more artistic applications. Joe Herman had uncovered a cache of old 8mm and 16mm family movies, and was digitising them and projecting them via a modified vintage movie projector equipped with a Raspberry Pi and Camera Module. You can find out more on Joe’s GitHub.

Joe Herman's Pi-powered projector. Image from Maker Faire.

Joe Herman’s Pi-powered projector. Image from Maker Faire.

Joe’s project wasn’t the only great Pi art project. Following on from Sam Blanchard’s amazing SeeMore, one of the main showpieces of last year’s Faire, we were incredibly excited to see another Pi-powered art piece in pride of place this year. The first thing to greet attendees visiting the Faire in the New York Hall of Science was the Pi-powered Sisyphus kinetic art table. We think it’s so amazing, we’ll be devoting a whole post to it, so keep an eye out!

For several of us, it was our first visit to the Faire and to New York, which really added to our excitement. One of the greatest things was meeting so many happy Pi fans, and introducing newcomers to the fun you can have with one. We lost count of the excellent animations we saw kids (and adults) create on the Sense HAT, and the joyful exclamations as another person got their first piece of Python code working; this is one of the most rewarding parts of our work. We can’t wait for the next Maker Faire! If you couldn’t attend, be sure to check out our tour video here:

Live from World Maker Faire New York 2016

Let Carrie Anne and Matt take you on a tour of World Maker Faire 2016. Join them as they explore the faire, introduce the Raspberry Pi stand, PIXEL and Sam’s artwork, and chat to the teams from Ready Set STEM and Pi Supply.



The Compute Module – now in an NEC display near you

Back in April 2014, we launched the Compute Module to provide hardware developers with a way to incorporate Raspberry Pi technology into their own products. Since then, we’ve seen it used to build home media players, industrial control systems, and everything in between.

Earlier this week, NEC announced that they would be adding Compute Module support to their next-generation large-format displays, starting with 40″, 48″, and 55″ models in January 2017, and eventually scaling all the way up to a monstrous 98″ (!!) by the end of the year. These are commercial-grade displays designed for use in brightly lit public spaces such as schools, offices, shops, and railway stations.

Believe it or not these are the small ones

Believe it or not, these are the small ones.

NEC have already lined up a range of software partners in retail, airport information systems, education, and corporate to provide presentation and signage software which runs on the Compute Module platform. You’ll be seeing these roll out in a lot of locations that you visit frequently.

Each display has an internal bay which accepts an adapter board loaded with either the existing Compute Module or the upcoming Compute Module 3, which incorporates the BCM2837 application processor and 1GB of LPDDR2 memory found on the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. We’re expecting to do a wider release of Compute Module 3 to everybody around the end of the year.

The Compute Module in situ

The Compute Module in situ

We’ve been working on this project with NEC for over a year now, and are very excited that it’s finally seeing the light of day. It’s an incredible vote of confidence in the Raspberry Pi Compute Module platform from a blue-chip hardware vendor, and will hopefully be the first of many.

Now, here’s some guy to tell you more about what’s going on behind the screens you walk past every day on your commute.

‘The Power to Surprise’ live stream at Display Trends Forum 2016 – NEC Teams Up With Raspberry Pi

NEC Display Solutions today announced that it will be sharing an open platform modular approach with Raspberry Pi, enabling a seamless integration of Raspberry Pi’s devices with NEC’s displays. NEC’s leading position in offering the widest product range of display solutions matches perfectly with the Raspberry Pi, the organisation responsible for developing the award-winning range of low-cost, high-performance computers.


Learn C in our brand new MagPi Essentials book!

Rob from The MagPi here again! As I’m sure you’ve noticed, Python is the preferred programming language around these parts. It’s powerful, it’s easy to read, and it’s excellent for teaching coding in general. It isn’t the only language in the world though. We’re happy to reveal that our latest Essentials book will help you learn one of these other languages: C.


Our handy guide to learning C, out now!

If you’ve read the magazine for a while, you’ll have seen pieces on Processing and Node-RED in there. We’ve also been running an ongoing series teaching you C. If getting your learning fix in monthly instalments is too slow for you, though, then Learn to Code with C from the author of that series, Raspberry Pi’s Simon Long, should be just the ticket.

It’s a substantial book, packed with solid, non-gimmicky information. You’ll learn the basics of using C: working with variables, using loops, creating functions and arrays, having user input, controlling your code flow, and much more. You should come away from the book bursting with top-notch knowledge, ready to hack the planet.

Learn to Code with C is available right this instant from our app (which has recently had an overhaul); you can find it on Google Play and the App Store. You can also get the free PDF as usual. I know we’ve been saying that the new range of books will be available in print soon for a while now, but this time we mean really soon. Keep an eye out for future updates.

Any thoughts on the book to close us out, Captain?


Hands-free with the Alexa Voice Service

The recent update to the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) API allows makers to incorporate hands-free functionality into their builds, a feature previously missing from all but the official Amazon Echo and Dot models. 

Diagram of the Amazon Alexa Voice Service

While adverts for the Echo represent owners calling out to Alexa with a request or question — “Alexa, what is the time?”, “Alexa, order me a pizza”, “Alexa, how do you get red wine out of the carpet?” — any digital maker using the free API from the Amazon Developer team had to include a button within their build, putting a slight dampener on the futuristic vibe of the disembodied Alexa. (We know about this dampening effect, because a bunch of you complained vocally about it.)

With the update removing the press-a-button limitation, anyone using the AVS can now ‘wake’ Alexa with a ‘wake word’, calling out to Alexa, Echo, or Amazon. Thankfully, at least in my household, this choice of wake word means the device won’t be listening whenever anyone calls my name.

We’ve seen no end of builds over the last year as makers begin to incorporate the AVS into their home automation projects and robots. There’s been everything from boats to kids’ builds, retro radios and more, and we even co-hosted the Internet of Voice Challenge with Amazon and Hackster.io this summer.

Winners of the challenge received various awards including Amazon vouchers, Echos, and trophies. A full list of winners can be seen here, but we thought you’d like to see some of the most noteworthy builds, like Roxie the Voice-Activated Pitching Robot by Terren Peterson:

Using a Voice Activated Pitching Machine to Teach

Using the Robot Roxie Alexa Skill to have a voice activated pitching machine. Full details on Hackster.io

Or this Voice Controller K’nex Car by Auston Mathuw:

Voice Controlled Raspberry Pi K’nex Car

Uploaded by Austin Mathuw on 2016-08-31.

And the favourite of sleep-deprived social media editors everywhere, The Coffee Machine by Bastiaan Slee:

Alexa Raspberry Coffee Machine – Introduction

Coffee Machine: Amazon Alexa & Raspberry Pi, my Internet of Voice project. If you want to develop a project like this, read the following site for instructions: https://www.hackster.io/bastiaan-slee/coffee-machine-amazon-alexa-raspberry-pi-cbc613

Other winners include the Mystic Mirror by Darian Johnson and Ping Pong Showdown by Dana Young

One thing I’m looking forward to is integrating the AVS into situations where hands-free truly is the only option. Not only will we begin to see an increase of Alexa-pimped cars, bikes, and drones, but I also see great advances in the use of the service for those with accessibility issues, such as those with mobility concerns or visual impairments. The Smart Cap, winner of the Intermediate Alexa Skill Set category, is a great example. Get in touch if you create something yourself!


Ten things you (probably) didn’t know about Ada Lovelace

Today it’s Ada Lovelace Day, when we celebrate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths.


Start Ada Lovelace Day with this poetry generator Scratch project from Code Club.

Once you’ve done that, have a little ponder. A quick poll of Pi Towers revealed that while we think we all know all about Ada Lovelace herself, the sum of knowledge of most of us appears to be “Um…First computer programmer. Analytical engine. Yeah?”

We’ve made a list of Ada Lovelace Facts to fill in your blanks.

  1. Although she was Lord Byron’s (yes, that Lord Byron) daughter, Ada Lovelace had no relationship with him. He left her and Lady Byron to go and pursue an actress before little Ada was a month old, and she never saw him again – he died when she was eight years old.Ada Lovelace
  2. Lady Byron herself was no slouch when it came to what we now call STEM. She was particularly interested in astronomy and mathematics: Byron called her his “Princess of Parallelograms”.
  3. Lady Byron was worried that some of Lord Byron’s famously lascivious behaviour might rub off on her little daughter, so she made the decision to build a maths and science curriculum for Ada to follow from the age of 4 to distract her from more worldly concerns – vanishingly unusual for a 19th century English noblewoman.miniature_of_ada_byron
  4. At the age of 17, Lovelace met Charles Babbage, and saw a demo of a model portion of his proposed Difference Engine. Her work with the Difference Engine and Analytical Engine (neither the Difference Engine nor the Analytical Engine was ever built in Babbage’s or Lovelace’s lifetimes) are what we primarily remember her for.
  5. Ada also had an important female mentor: Mary Somerville, a Scottish mathematician and astronomer, who, elected at the same time as Caroline Herschel, was one of the first two women to be made a member of the Royal Astronomical Society.
  6. When she was 28, Ada Lovelace translated an Italian paper on Babbage’s Analytical Engine into English – and added enough original material to it to increase its length three times over. Her additions to that paper showed how Babbage’s Analytical Engine could be coded to calculate Bernoulli numbers: the first machine algorithm, and the first computer program.1210-ada-lovelace-charles-babbage
  7. Ada Lovelace was a musician as well as a scientist, and worked on musical compositions based on numbers, an application which she intended for the Analytical Engine.
  8. Lovelace came up with a method for the Analytical Engine to repeat a series of instructions: the first documented loop in computing.
  9. She attempted to use her mathematical and analytical skills to give her the upper hand in gambling, particularly on horses. It wasn’t a great success, despite the development of complicated mathematical schemes: she had to pawn the family jewels, and on one occasion lost a staggering £3,200 on one horse race.ada-lovelace2
  10. After her death, Ada Lovelace’s contributions to science were forgotten – until 1953, when her notes were published by B.V. in Faster Than Thought: A Symposium on Digital Computing Machines. Since then she’s had a programming language (Ada) named after her, many books written about her – and we celebrate her, and other women in STEM, every year.