Ada.Ada.Ada. Written, directed, designed and performed by Zoe Philpott. Llewellyn Hall, Australian National University, Thursday, May 30, 8pm. ticketek.com.au.
Many people have heard of Charles Babbage. The 19th-century inventor, mathematician and engineer originated the concept of a digital programmable computer.
Less well known is his close collaborator, Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first complex computer program - an algorithm designed to be carried out by a machine - in 1843.
He was "hardware", she was "software" - both vital elements - a century before the first computer was built.
But it's Babbage whose name has been given to a moon crater, a programming language, and The Economist's Science and Technology blog, among other things, while Lovelace's name languishes in obscurity.
To correct this, British writer, director, designer and performer Zoe Philpott created the one-woman show Ada.Ada.Ada.
It is having its only Australian performance in Canberra.
Philpott says the director of the Australian National University's 3A [Autonomy, Agency, Assurance] Institute, Genevieve Bell, invited her to come to Canberra to perform the show, which ties in with the institute's focus on artificial intelligence and technology.
"Back in 2015 I was asked to mark the bicentenary of her birth," Philpott says.
Philpott, who's worked as a stage manager and director as well a performer, says she has a passion for storytelling, education and technology. While she's combined these talents in other shows - for example, a presentation for Ford about green technology for motor cars - Ada.Ada.Ada. seems particularly close to her heart.
"I'm a woman in technology - there are very few women in technology," she says.
She says the number of women involved has halved since the 1990s.
One way for young people to become interested in technology is video games, but she says these tend to appeal more to males and the women who do study technology subjects often drop out.
"It becomes self-perpetuating - there are no role models to inspire women."
She wants to use Lovelace's story to encourage women to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, and to point out that the contribution of women to history - including the history of technology - is too often overlooked.
The life of Lovelace is as interesting as her work.
Philpott says Lovelace - formal title the Countess of Lovelace - was the only legitimate child of the licentious poet Lord Byron. Her mother, mathematician Isabella Milbanke, left Byron when Ada was a baby.
Milbanke, she says, was a straitlaced, very religious woman who insisted on removing all the tendencies Ada might have inherited from her father by making her learn mathematics.
Ada's mother was often neglectful and her influence was not altogether benign: when the sickly Ada became ill with the measles Milbanke kept her in bed for a whole year and afterwards it was some time until she could walk again.
But Ada retained her intellectual curiosity. At the age of 12 she researched flying and built a pair of wings, and she continued her studies of maths and technology.
In 1833, Lovelace met Babbage, and she became a regular in Court. The following year she married William King-Noel, Eighth Baron King, and became Lady King. They had three children.
Although she continued her intellectual pursuits, she also revealed some Byronic influence: there was talk of affairs and she ran up huge gambling debts. Lovelace died in 1852 at the age of 36 of uterine cancer.
To help Philpott tell the story of Ada Lovelace, she will be wearing a spectacular LED dress by lighting designer Matt Haskins, a frequent collaborator, on which images appear.
"I control it with my glove," Philpott says.
It's one of a pair, of course, but while the other one is normal, the special glove is made of conductive fabric so it can transfer electricity.
But it's not just any old glove.
"It's a glove made by the glovemakers to the Queen of England," she says.
"The pattern is glorious - it would make Audrey Hepburn proud."