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In The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage Sydney Padua transforms one of the most compelling scientific collaborations into a hilarious set of adventures Meet two of Victorian London's greatest geniuses... Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron: mathematician, gambler, and proto-programmer, whose writings contained the first ever appearance of general computing theo In The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage Sydney Padua transforms one of the most compelling scientific collaborations into a hilarious set of adventures Meet two of Victorian London's greatest geniuses... Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron: mathematician, gambler, and proto-programmer, whose writings contained the first ever appearance of general computing theory, a hundred years before an actual computer was built. And Charles Babbage, eccentric inventor of the Difference Engine, an enormous clockwork calculating machine that would have been the first computer, if he had ever finished it. But what if things had been different? The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage presents a delightful alternate reality in which Lovelace and Babbage do build the Difference Engine and use it to create runaway economic models, battle the scourge of spelling errors, explore the wider realms of mathematics and, of course, fight crime - for the sake of both London and science. Extremely funny and utterly unusual, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage comes complete with historical curiosities, extensive footnotes and never-before-seen diagrams of Babbage's mechanical, steam-powered computer. And ray guns.


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In The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage Sydney Padua transforms one of the most compelling scientific collaborations into a hilarious set of adventures Meet two of Victorian London's greatest geniuses... Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron: mathematician, gambler, and proto-programmer, whose writings contained the first ever appearance of general computing theo In The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage Sydney Padua transforms one of the most compelling scientific collaborations into a hilarious set of adventures Meet two of Victorian London's greatest geniuses... Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron: mathematician, gambler, and proto-programmer, whose writings contained the first ever appearance of general computing theory, a hundred years before an actual computer was built. And Charles Babbage, eccentric inventor of the Difference Engine, an enormous clockwork calculating machine that would have been the first computer, if he had ever finished it. But what if things had been different? The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage presents a delightful alternate reality in which Lovelace and Babbage do build the Difference Engine and use it to create runaway economic models, battle the scourge of spelling errors, explore the wider realms of mathematics and, of course, fight crime - for the sake of both London and science. Extremely funny and utterly unusual, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage comes complete with historical curiosities, extensive footnotes and never-before-seen diagrams of Babbage's mechanical, steam-powered computer. And ray guns.

30 review for The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    If you're not familiar with Lovelace and Babbage, Sydney Padua's delight-filled webcomic, rejoice! It has now made the transition to print. You can pick up a doorstop of brilliant Victoriana-flavoured geeky humour, historically painstaking footnoting, and lovely art - and you should do so IMMEDIATELY. Let me just acknowledge right now that I'm not even trying to be objective: Sydney's comic always hit the sweet spot of my sense of how the world ought to be. Her riff on the (factually rather grim If you're not familiar with Lovelace and Babbage, Sydney Padua's delight-filled webcomic, rejoice! It has now made the transition to print. You can pick up a doorstop of brilliant Victoriana-flavoured geeky humour, historically painstaking footnoting, and lovely art - and you should do so IMMEDIATELY. Let me just acknowledge right now that I'm not even trying to be objective: Sydney's comic always hit the sweet spot of my sense of how the world ought to be. Her riff on the (factually rather grim) story of Lovelace and Babbage and their not-quite creation of the computer in the 1800s is brain jazz. It's filled with digressions, anachronisms and sketch protrayals of famous Victorians, all riven through with an ebullient goofiness. This is history as I wish it was: bright, caring and full of zing. It's also the modern world through a Padua prism, with jokes about Twitter and Venn diagrams sprinkled into the dialogue. That said, there's also a truth here, as you can immediately see if you dip into Babbage's own writing: Sydney's portrayal of him as a Dickensian steam-age petrolhead with cranky uncle basenotes is spot on, and Lovelace - whose true historical upbringing was like something from a Warren Ellis comic about the Fascist precursors of the Superman concept - was every bit as quirky. There's something else going on, too, which is worth mentioning: this is a book about the creative process and the creative mind, with its fancies and magpie distractability, its excitements and sloughs of despond. I recognise the protagonists in myself and my friends and family, just as I do when I read Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing or G H Hardy's remarkable A Mathematician's Apology. Creativity varies in its output according to any number of personality traits, but the process seems to be remarkably similar across disciplines: great artists, great activists, great poets, and great scientists share a veering perpendicular humour, and it's alive here, in this book. That's why I ran around like a four year old yesterday after Sydney dropped in my copy: because this book is full of life. Go. Get it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    The delightful artwork of this graphic enterprise (I don't think it can be called a novel) made it jump off the library shelf and into my check out pile. Unfortunately, reading this work is not near as interesting as browsing through it. It consists of musings on what would have happened if Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace had actually built Babbage's difference engine. Almost every page has footnotes, many of the footnotes have very long endnotes, and occasionally an endnote will have a footnot The delightful artwork of this graphic enterprise (I don't think it can be called a novel) made it jump off the library shelf and into my check out pile. Unfortunately, reading this work is not near as interesting as browsing through it. It consists of musings on what would have happened if Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace had actually built Babbage's difference engine. Almost every page has footnotes, many of the footnotes have very long endnotes, and occasionally an endnote will have a footnote. It's not clear whether the footnotes serve the panels or the panels serve the footnotes. Taken on its own the "graphic novel" part is pretty thin, and it's very difficult to get a reading flow going with the constant interruptions. There are some interesting appendices with excerpts from primary sources and a description of how the difference engine was supposed to work. Also, don't expect to get detailed insight into the technical accomplishments of ether Babbage or Lovelace. The author (whom I hate to criticize because she seems incredibly likable and talented based on this work) seems in over her head when it comes to technical details. Despite my review, the popularity of this book on Goodreads may convince you to ignore me and read it anyway (I don't blame you). I see that this title is available on Kindle. Don't even think about it - you need a hard copy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Oriana

    Typically I wait to review J&C books until after we have our book club meeting (if I remember to actually review them at all), but I've just this moment finished Lovelace & Babbage, and it was so utterly splendid that I had to write about it immediately. I was pretty stoked about this one going in (I wrote an article about Ada on Atlas Obscura for Lovelace Day last year), but still I was completely blown away. This book is so charming, so monstrously intelligent, and so, so incredibly much fun. Typically I wait to review J&C books until after we have our book club meeting (if I remember to actually review them at all), but I've just this moment finished Lovelace & Babbage, and it was so utterly splendid that I had to write about it immediately. I was pretty stoked about this one going in (I wrote an article about Ada on Atlas Obscura for Lovelace Day last year), but still I was completely blown away. This book is so charming, so monstrously intelligent, and so, so incredibly much fun. Sydney Padua is brilliant: a brilliant scholar, a brilliant researcher, a brilliant putter-together of seriously complex mini-plots, and just a brilliant entertainer overall. Here's a quick note on the book's (brilliant) structure: Victorian mathematician Ada Lovelace is most famous for having taken a short French paper about one of inventor Charles Babbage's (very complex) lectures and then translated and annotated it, her notes amounting to about 2-1/2 times the length of the original paper. Padua has written this book in the same way, with each comics page footed by an inch or several of notes, as well as extensive endnotes at the back of each vignette. All the extraneous material allows Padua to demonstrate the dazzling breadth of research she has done, from descriptions of each historical figure in endless articles and books and private correspondences, down to all these great askance mentions in obscure journals, even including a recipe for Ada's favorite toothpaste. (!!!) Padua opens the book with thumbnail histories of Ada ("It's not easy being the daughter of Lord Byron, a celebrity mad genius deviant sex god, and Ada was monitored by the entire country, it sometimes seemed, for signs of madness, genius, and deviant sex. She would gratify expectations of all of the above.") and Charles ("Babbage's long, illustrious, and varied career was characterized by both innovative genius and constant drama and strangely petty quarrels.") Then she moves into the parameters of the pocket universe in which the rest of the book will take place—one wherein Ada did not die young and Charles did build his Difference Engine, which would have been the very first computer had it ever made it off the page and into reality. And then we're off on adventures! Padua packs each one to the absolute hilt with 19th-century arcana, quotes from Ada and Charles' myriad written works, intricate tracings of how everyone in Victorian England knew one another, and cameos from a whole bunch of actual historical figures, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge (whose attempt at poetry Ada foils), George Eliot (whom Charles must save from the Curse of the Typos), and Queen Victoria (whose favor Ada secures via binary pictures of cats—LOL). The final and longest vignette recasts Ada as Alice lost in a mathematical poetical Wonderland, wherein Lewis Carroll's mathematical proclivities are brought to bear and the footnotes themselves emerge as a central character. There's also a larger-than-life cigar-chomping steam engineer, an attack on the Engine by Luddites, digressions on Euclidian geometry, and an appendix full of source material, including a triumphantly discovered letter exonerating Ada's (highly contested) genius whose footnote reads, in part, "this was my introduction to the very great thrill of throw-down victory in Combat Scholarship." Holy good god every bit of this is so stunningly wonderful. I can't believe how much I adored it! It's easily in my top 5 graphic novels evaaar.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mir

    I hope this book is as nerdy as I think it is. I hope this book is as nerdy as I think it is.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Meagan

    Most important thing first: Where can one acquire action figures of these versions of Lovelace and Babbage? Because I need them. My life is not whole without them. I am 100% serious about this. Someone get on it. Now to details. This weird little book is delightful. It takes the already fascinating story about the friendship of two mathematicians developing the idea for the first computer, and then ramps it up. What would the world have been like if Babbage had actually seen this through and buil Most important thing first: Where can one acquire action figures of these versions of Lovelace and Babbage? Because I need them. My life is not whole without them. I am 100% serious about this. Someone get on it. Now to details. This weird little book is delightful. It takes the already fascinating story about the friendship of two mathematicians developing the idea for the first computer, and then ramps it up. What would the world have been like if Babbage had actually seen this through and built his difference engine, rather than scrapping it unfinished in favor of the analytical engine, which he also never finished due to never ending improvements and tinkering with the design? Also assuming that Ada Lovelace hadn't died so young of cancer, of course. According to Sydney Padua, the world would have been awesome. It would have been Victorian Steampunk, fully realized. (And this is not so difficult to believe, really. Imagine - the Victorians with steam-powered computers built of brass cogs. The mind boggles.) Also imagine that Lovelace and Babbage teamed up to use the difference engine in the fight against the world's greatest evils - poetry and street music. I find it difficult to express how much I enjoyed reading this. From the way Lovelace and Babbage are drawn, to the appearances of George Eliot, (the epically named) Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Charles Dickens, and Queen Victoria herself. The humor was spot on. The author did her research, points out where her version differs from reality, and shares her sources. I want more. So, so much more. I want Saturday morning cartoons. Halloween costumes. Movies. And action figures. Seriously, guys. Who's making that happen?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    This seemed like a comic perhaps more for my partner than me (and lo, she did love it), but I wanted to give it a try too after hearing some stuff about it on the radio… somewhere. And Robert kindly sent me his copy to peruse, so I had no excuse (and didn’t really want to find one anyway). I like the art — it’s cute, but not too cute; lively and character-ful, without feeling like caricature. And the sense of humour suits mine pretty well too. If you’re looking for a serious what-if about the Dif This seemed like a comic perhaps more for my partner than me (and lo, she did love it), but I wanted to give it a try too after hearing some stuff about it on the radio… somewhere. And Robert kindly sent me his copy to peruse, so I had no excuse (and didn’t really want to find one anyway). I like the art — it’s cute, but not too cute; lively and character-ful, without feeling like caricature. And the sense of humour suits mine pretty well too. If you’re looking for a serious what-if about the Difference Engine, then this isn’t really your show; the comic itself is more about the characters, their endearing characteristics, their partnership. It’s based heavily on material surviving from the correspondence of and commentary on Lovelace and Babbage, but the events themselves are fanciful, often ludicrous, for the sake of a fun rather than “educational” comic. It works well, if that’s what you’re here for — and even if you aren’t, there’s a whole wealth of info contained in the footnotes and the appendices. One thing I did find awkward about reading this was how busy the pages are. Text! Everywhere! Here’s a footnote there’s a footnote and another little footnote! My brain is not very good visually at all, so I found it cluttered and distracting at times. Colour might have helped; maybe not. Still, overall fun and yes please to Ada Lovelace as hero. Originally posted here.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Adan

    One of the best comics on computing and mathematics I have ever read, even if it mostly took place in a pocket universe. If mathematics can have imaginary numbers that are incredibly important for certain types of equations, then literature can definitely have imaginary histories that are incredibly important to our understanding of the world.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Megan Hornberger

    I love how self-aware this graphic novel is. It pokes fun at itself, it makes mention of technologies that the reader will know to ease them into the world of Ada and Charles, it calls servants "minions" to add just the right amount of comedic relief, but it lacks fluidity. There is an overwhelming amount of footnotes, endnotes, technical explanations, passages from letter exchanges, etc. It becomes visually distracting and often does nothing to add to the graphic portion of the novel. I think t I love how self-aware this graphic novel is. It pokes fun at itself, it makes mention of technologies that the reader will know to ease them into the world of Ada and Charles, it calls servants "minions" to add just the right amount of comedic relief, but it lacks fluidity. There is an overwhelming amount of footnotes, endnotes, technical explanations, passages from letter exchanges, etc. It becomes visually distracting and often does nothing to add to the graphic portion of the novel. I think that it's almost meant to be the other way round, where the graphic portion is only there to support the footnotes/endnotes. I admire the art, but overall I can't say I think this was a successful graphic novel. It's just too busy.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ross Blocher

    The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is beautifully drawn and a wellspring of geeky, Victorian fun. Sydney Padua is an animator and visual effects artist who started a comic series to work out her obsessions with Ada Lovelace (widely credited as the first computer programmer) and Charles Babbage (widely credited as the designer of the first computer). Padua assembles the little we know about these historical figures and lays it out in illustrated/annotated form: Lovelace was the daug The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is beautifully drawn and a wellspring of geeky, Victorian fun. Sydney Padua is an animator and visual effects artist who started a comic series to work out her obsessions with Ada Lovelace (widely credited as the first computer programmer) and Charles Babbage (widely credited as the designer of the first computer). Padua assembles the little we know about these historical figures and lays it out in illustrated/annotated form: Lovelace was the daughter of famous poet Lord Byron. She had an immense aptitude for math, and perhaps a bit of a temper. Babbage was brilliant and self-obsessed, but never actually constructed his difference engine, let alone his grander design for an analytical engine, despite funding from the crown. Lovelace and Babbage knew each other and collaborated: Lovelace contributed to the software side of what Babbage sought to establish with calculating hardware. Having reached the somewhat disappointing conclusion of the bare facts, Padua transports us into her Pocket Universe, an expanded alternate reality in which the analytical engine was not only built, but used by Lovelace and Babbage to solve crime, rejigger an economy, and parse written language. In this counterfactual space, Victorian figures both known and unknown to the real Lovelace and Babbage (Mostly known! It is fascinating to hear about interactions with the likes of Queen Victoria, Charles Darwin, and Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll) play roles, and Padua synthesizes fun observations and snippets of research (much of it original) into a coherent narrative. She does so with elaborate and wide-ranging footnotes that provide equal parts geeky fun and tedium, depending on how interested you are in the topic at hand. Padua has fun with this, often at the expense of her own fixations. In some cases, the characters themselves intervene to block footnotes or blast them off the page. It's smart, it's playful, it's irreverent, and it's educational in the I'm-not-so-sure-I'm-ever-actually-going-to-use-this-but-my-goodness-it's-fun sense. It may not be for everyone, but it certainly is for me, and I benefited from many of the connections and references. And the illustrations! Padua has a loose, confident style that bespeaks skilled observation. She draws with a thick-and-thin line and a sense of caricature that recalls Bill Waterson's Calvin & Hobbes, but is suffused with rough hatching to evoke the engravings of the era (which are often worked into the illustrations). It's all very steam punk, which is appropriate: it's hard to get more steampunk in real life than Babbage's designs for the difference engine and analytical engine, with their towering columns of spinning cogs and number-carrying arms (a version of Babbage's difference engine was constructed in the early 21st century: you can see some of the amazing footage here). Much of the humor is conveyed through very subtle expressions and postures, and I spent a lot of time just staring at the drawings. At times you can tell that Padua was working quickly or roughly, but she is good at suggesting detail where real detail has not been rendered. While Padua is careful to state areas of ignorance and qualify examples of incomplete knowledge, there is so much good, interesting, well-researched and well-explained information here that I can't help but think of it as a scholarly work, even as we engage in caricature, wordplay, whimsy and parody. Highly recommended to all of my fun-loving nerdy friends.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sesana

    This is one of the most ridiculously well researched comics I have ever read. Given the subject matter, it's hardly surprising that both history and math play a large part in the weird and somewhat silly imaginary adventures of nineteenth century math geeks. I expected that, but the sheer depth of research information is somewhat overwhelming. And by that, I mainly mean all the mathematics, because math is absolutely impossible for me to understand. Still, I greatly respect the sheer level of de This is one of the most ridiculously well researched comics I have ever read. Given the subject matter, it's hardly surprising that both history and math play a large part in the weird and somewhat silly imaginary adventures of nineteenth century math geeks. I expected that, but the sheer depth of research information is somewhat overwhelming. And by that, I mainly mean all the mathematics, because math is absolutely impossible for me to understand. Still, I greatly respect the sheer level of detail all that research has lead to. And you can actually read the book entirely without going through all the math footnotes, because those weird and silly adventures are actually fun to read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    If I decorated my space with GIFs, this book would get a shot from The Incredibles, where the kid on the bike goes "that... is... so... WICKED!!!" But, be prepared for some wildness from Ms. Padua! Imagine a sweet/sad/fun thesis in history and computer science told in graphic novel format about the inventors of a factory-sized steampunk calculating machine and several famous Victorian authors and scientists. Now stop imagining, go to the library, and read this book. If I decorated my space with GIFs, this book would get a shot from The Incredibles, where the kid on the bike goes "that... is... so... WICKED!!!" But, be prepared for some wildness from Ms. Padua! Imagine a sweet/sad/fun thesis in history and computer science told in graphic novel format about the inventors of a factory-sized steampunk calculating machine and several famous Victorian authors and scientists. Now stop imagining, go to the library, and read this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Way too many footnotes. I’ve been wanting to read this for a long time. The premise is really cool but unfortunately for me, it didn’t really deliver.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    So, on the one hand you have accurate historical background on Babbage and Lovelace and the work they did together. And then there are the fantastical steampunk adventures they might have had if only they'd gotten around to making the first computer. The adventures are as heavily footnoted as the real history, so one can learn a great deal about the historical figures, the process of digging through history for evidence, and more. Great fun for all ages, although the really young would need an ad So, on the one hand you have accurate historical background on Babbage and Lovelace and the work they did together. And then there are the fantastical steampunk adventures they might have had if only they'd gotten around to making the first computer. The adventures are as heavily footnoted as the real history, so one can learn a great deal about the historical figures, the process of digging through history for evidence, and more. Great fun for all ages, although the really young would need an advanced reader to help.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    A graphic geek-out full of historical nuggets and arcana. You'll be lost in these pages for months (at least I was) reading footnotes, not remembering or even caring what they're footnotes of, learning tidbits of useless knowledge, giggling at obscure nerd jokes or visual puns. But in the process you'll also get to know Babbage, Ada, and Sydney, three personalities that really shine through here. Through the eyes of Sydney Padua, we get to know these historical figures not simply from their acco A graphic geek-out full of historical nuggets and arcana. You'll be lost in these pages for months (at least I was) reading footnotes, not remembering or even caring what they're footnotes of, learning tidbits of useless knowledge, giggling at obscure nerd jokes or visual puns. But in the process you'll also get to know Babbage, Ada, and Sydney, three personalities that really shine through here. Through the eyes of Sydney Padua, we get to know these historical figures not simply from their accomplishments, but from what they COULD have done as well, in alternate parallel universes. Sydney's enthusiasm for these characters infects every page from a mind-boggling amount of research to lovingly drawn expressions. This isn't a stuffy history, it's exactly what history should be: fun, creative, exciting, and getting to know REAL people, facts be damned (I say that but everything here is BASED on fact, it's that she also riffs off of them and is not afraid to go down crazy conjectures that makes this book so unique and personal and not at all a boring history).

  15. 4 out of 5

    Basma

    Not entirely how I expected it to be but it was still enjoyable. I loved the non fiction part more than the Pocket Universe. But you guys! The art in this book!! It's way too wonderful. Her characters are beautiful and adorable. Not entirely how I expected it to be but it was still enjoyable. I loved the non fiction part more than the Pocket Universe. But you guys! The art in this book!! It's way too wonderful. Her characters are beautiful and adorable.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alfred Haplo

    When imagination meets reality, thrilling adventures happen. Two brilliant minds, with personalities larger than life and 24 years of age apart, met one fateful day on June 5th, 1833. The rest, as they say, is history. (And copiously footnoted) *. Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage were way ahead of their times in Victorian London. He was a wealthy inventor and the Cambridge Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, hailed in modern era as “father of the computer” having invented the pre-pre-pre-precur When imagination meets reality, thrilling adventures happen. Two brilliant minds, with personalities larger than life and 24 years of age apart, met one fateful day on June 5th, 1833. The rest, as they say, is history. (And copiously footnoted) *. Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage were way ahead of their times in Victorian London. He was a wealthy inventor and the Cambridge Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, hailed in modern era as “father of the computer” having invented the pre-pre-pre-precursor to modern computers called the Difference Machine. In 1837, Babbage embarked on an vastly more ambitious project to build the Analytical Machine. A metal monstrosity, it can calculate long strings of numbers (up to 15 decimal places of pi). A tiny section of the Analytical Machine looks like this: … But it was probably meant to look like this: Babbage’s notoriety was well-known within the elite intellectual circle of Victorian Who’s Who. He wrote prolifically in diverse scientific pursuits, threw lavish parties, hung with literary heavyweights, has a personal vendetta against street music among many idiosyncrasies, and was forcefully opinionated. In short, Babbage was obnoxious and eccentric but was tolerated with amusement because he was A Brilliant Scientist. However, while Babbage was a numbers and technical whiz, being all about nuts and bolts, levers and cranks, formulae and ratios, he lacked creative vision. Entered Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess Lovelace, with her incredible leaps of the imagination. At a young age, Lovelace was steered into a rigid mathematics path by a mother determined to squash the poetic impulses that drove her father, the famous and infamous poet, Lord Byron, to madness. Lovelace pursued science fervently, and implored her mother to ‘Pray find out all you can for me, about everything curious, mysterious, marvellous, electrical, etc., etc.” In her collaboration with Babbage, she wrote the first published algorithm for the Analytical Machine, by exploring its utility far beyond number-crunching to more abstract manipulation of music and symbols. Lovelace was on to a very futuristic concept, and for this, she is known as a visionary of the computer age. An excerpt from Lovelace’s, ‘Notes upon L. F. Menabrea’s “Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage” ‘Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.’ Lovelace’s inherent “madness” - suspected bipolar disorder, a genetic trait through her father - manifested despite attempts to suppress it. Prone to illness, she succumbed to ovarian cancer at age 39 years, just 11 years after her first encounter with Babbage, who remained a loving friend till his own death as a cranky curmudgeon at age 79. Her calling card, inscribed with her cursive handwriting the word “Interesting”, was found in his deathbed possession. The Analytical Machine was never completed, but its inventor and its "high priestess" are remembered. [* Footnotes 1. The real story is thoroughly researched and generously illustrated by Sydney Padua in The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The Mostly (True) Story of the First Computer 2. Shoddy review not worthy of the book, er, comic, book with comic? Graphics novel? No, comics in a book. Whatever. It’s fun. 3. Besides the real history, Padua gleefully re-imagined alternate what-if stories of the duo in a pocket multiverse. They are all funny, except the real one. Well, the real one is funnily portrayed, but people died and the machine wasn’t built. So, it’s funny, but not too funny. More like a quirk at the corner of your smile. 4. Queen Victoria made an appearance. On a horse. 5. The real stars, Lovelace and Babbage, outshine their caricatures. Padua’s lighthearted interpretations and comedic superimposition added playfulness, but it felt a little short in capturing the emotional depths of this pair. Yes, yes, comics as a medium is usually two-dimensional but maybe I hoped for less slapstick. 6. Many footnotes annotate the illustrations. Excessively many footnotes. Sometimes they run into pages. And pages. All good stuff though, they flesh out the pictures. 7. Only 7 footnotes in my review. ….. 8. Ok, I lied. Recommended for geeks and non-geeks alike who actually have a bit in common. We all can't live without our computers, can we?]

  17. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This is one of the most charming things I've ever come across: a sweet, fun graphic novel that explores the lives of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, often credited with being the creators of the first proto-computer in the 1840s. Sydney Padua skirts around the fact that both of their stories had relatively sad endings - Ada died young, Charles old and bitter - by spinning them off into their own pocket universe, where their Analytical Engine was actually built and used by the pair to go on thr This is one of the most charming things I've ever come across: a sweet, fun graphic novel that explores the lives of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, often credited with being the creators of the first proto-computer in the 1840s. Sydney Padua skirts around the fact that both of their stories had relatively sad endings - Ada died young, Charles old and bitter - by spinning them off into their own pocket universe, where their Analytical Engine was actually built and used by the pair to go on thrilling adventures together. Like I said: super charming. Sydney Padua essentially lets her characters speak for themselves, which is essentially the best and worst part of this graphic novel. It's be best, because Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace are SUPER interesting on their own, and because Padua does a great job presenting the info in a lively and witty manner. This book is spilling over with fun historical anecdotes, to the extent that once every 5-6 pages I'd feel the need to write some of them down, or run off and share it with a friend. Babbage and Lovelace are A+ protagonists: Lovelace is the daughter of the infamous Lord Byron, trained from a young age to stay as far away from the unspeakable dangers of poetry and pushed into the more sober realm of mathematics (it didn't work, of course - her math quickly became theoretical, abstract, and poetic). She was also an expert horsewoman, a trait passed on to her daughter, whose travels through Arabia resulted in the arrival in Europe of 90% of modern Arabian horses found on the continent. One gets the impression that she was brilliant and imaginative (if, in the real universe, somewhat unhappy). I sort of want to be her now. Babbage was clearly a firebrand, a brilliant, emotional man who unfortunately was far better at planning projects than ever seeing them through. He threw lavish parties, was popular and gregarious but also moody and ready to spew forth a lengthy denunciation of his enemies. His Difference Engine was a behemoth of a calculating machine, a whir of gears and columns and pinions designed to mechanically compute vast numbers of sums. He was funded by the government, which was understandably less than pleased when he got bored of it and moved onto the more ambitious Analytical Engine, capable of carrying out programs beyond simple arithmetic. Babbage was genuinely furious and perplexed that the government, despite his failure to finish his project, did not fall over itself to give him more money. He also, later in life, became most famous in Victorian London for his impassioned campaign against street musicians. Sydney Padua does not waste this golden opportunity, and this graphic novel is a total delight to read. It would be worth it solely for the wonderful array of historical anecdotes to be found in the footnotes, and the lively & imaginative style that's present throughout. I do wish that the story itself was a little bit more ambitious, though. Rather than have a full, overarching narrative, Lovelace and Babbage go on several mini adventures, largely designed to have them interact with other characters of the period, like George Eliot or the inimitable Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It's fun, but I would have loved to see these characters take on a more ambitious narrative arc in their pocket universe. Maybe next time? I'll save the 5 stars for that hypothetical thrilling adventure.

  18. 5 out of 5

    High Plains Library District

    Allow me to take a moment to review a book that could be considered a bit strange to a general audience. Let me see if I can describe what kind of book it is. It’s a graphic novel based on historical people and events. Kind of. Charles Babbage, an inventor, and Ada Lovelace, a mathematician (and the daughter of poet Lord Byron), are widely credited with the idea for the first computer. They called it the Analytical Engine and it was never built, but the early ideas of computer science are there. Allow me to take a moment to review a book that could be considered a bit strange to a general audience. Let me see if I can describe what kind of book it is. It’s a graphic novel based on historical people and events. Kind of. Charles Babbage, an inventor, and Ada Lovelace, a mathematician (and the daughter of poet Lord Byron), are widely credited with the idea for the first computer. They called it the Analytical Engine and it was never built, but the early ideas of computer science are there. This is kind of their story, but you’ll also see other famous Victorians, like George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (is that a great name or what?), and Queen Victoria herself. It’s also about science and technology. Sydney Padua did a lot of research about Lovelace and Babbage and about their work on the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine. She takes the time to explain the ideas behind these Victorian computers, and goes over the plans for the machines and how they would work. There are cartoon diagrams! If you’re interested in science and engineering from the Industrial Age, you’ll definitely find it here. It’s also, and this is my favorite part, a fictional account of what the world might have been like if Lovelace hadn’t died young of cancer, and if the duo had actually built their Analytical Engine. (Which is called by its calculator-like predecessor’s name, the Difference Engine. Because let’s be honest. Difference Engine sounds much cooler.) What that ends up looking like is an epic mashup of science and steampunk aesthetic. It’s a steampunk adventure starring scientists. The Difference Engine takes up an entire massive building (and is constantly growing), and a pipe-smoking Ada Lovelace and be-goggled Charles Babbage climb through the works to keep it in operation. There are runaway steam engines. There’s a wild herd of cats living in the machine. It’s the nerdiest fun I’ve had in ages. The final thing I want to say, and I’ve said it before, is that I want Sydney Padua to license her Lovelace and Babbage as action figures. Because having Lovelace and Babbage action figures would make my life as a nerd complete. Be honest. Who wouldn't want these two living on a shelf somewhere? No one, that's who. Here are some other books that might appeal to the nerd in all of us: There’s less narrative in Hark! A Vagrant than in The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, but there is plenty of history and humor. If you like jokes about Napoleon and Shakespeare and the Brontës made in comic strip format, this is your book. For more of the sciencey steampunk stuff, try Clockwork Game: The Illustrious Career of A Chess-Playing Automaton. It tells the story of a chess-playing automaton – and Charles Babbage actually challenged it. History! Or, if you want to cut out all the fun and just have the straight science, you can learn more about the real Lovelace and Babbage in Architects of the Information Age. -Meagan

  19. 4 out of 5

    Albert

    The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua is an irreverent and quirky view of what could have been the most outstanding scientific collaboration that didn't happen. Padua tells her tale in a graphic comic format with artwork reminiscent of early turn of the century (the 1900s) political cartoons. Its fun! Its awesome! Its over indulgent cheesecake for the geek universe! Charles Babbage is Victorian London's unrecognized invento The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua is an irreverent and quirky view of what could have been the most outstanding scientific collaboration that didn't happen. Padua tells her tale in a graphic comic format with artwork reminiscent of early turn of the century (the 1900s) political cartoons. Its fun! Its awesome! Its over indulgent cheesecake for the geek universe! Charles Babbage is Victorian London's unrecognized inventor of what would become the modern day computer with his plans for a monstrous mechanical calculating machine. Ada Lovelace is the Countess of Lovelace and daughter of the mad and brilliant poet, Lord Byron. Ada Lovelace translates a description of Babbage's calculating machine with annotations that were three times longer than the original plans. These footnotes from Lovelace actually contain the first known general computing theory, a century before the first actual computer was built! Unfortunately Lovelace passed away before her paper was ever published and Babbage never built his brilliant machine. Sydney Padua creates an alternate reality where Lovelace and Babbage create their awesome calculating machine. A behemoth that grows and grows in steam powered engines, and gears, and analytics, and doo dads and just freakin' awesome stuff. They will open up and explore the wild and untamed dimensions of mathematics! They will create economic models to stave off depressions! The will battle the demons of spelling errors! And for the Queen herself, create dot matrix kittens! Tongue in cheek perhaps, totally geeky surely, but fun all the same. Original. Thought provoking. Full of "what if" and untapped potential. In Babbage, the blustering scientist whose uncompromising and attitude make him a social pariah, Padua has developed a character whose brilliance makes him an outsider to a society he frowns upon but needs to continue his work. In Lovelace, the pre-feminist in Victorian society whose love of mathematics is only rivaled by her fear and disdain for poetry and the arts. Poetry which is in too many ways her opium, her drug, her weakness as she abhors the immoral ways of her father. Together they could have accomplished the unthinkable and in The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, they do. Granted by happenstance at times but isn't half the fun? A terrific read!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    What a fabulous book! A mixture of comic strip silliness, delightful anecdote and thorough research (aided by the spiritual successors to Babbage's never realised Analytical Engine) that provides the perfect introduction to the designer of the world's first computer and the author of the world's first computer science article! This dynamic duo have to face: visits from Royalty! Funding problems! Infestations of monkeys! And more! Meet such supporting characters as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Marian What a fabulous book! A mixture of comic strip silliness, delightful anecdote and thorough research (aided by the spiritual successors to Babbage's never realised Analytical Engine) that provides the perfect introduction to the designer of the world's first computer and the author of the world's first computer science article! This dynamic duo have to face: visits from Royalty! Funding problems! Infestations of monkeys! And more! Meet such supporting characters as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Marian Evans (better known as George Eliot) and a Leopard! Enjoy such additional delights as: extensive footnotes that take on a life of their own! Primary sources! An explanation of how the Analytical Engine was supposed to work! And an Epilogue! And more! Seriously, read this book to laugh while you learn and wonder how history would have gone if Babbage had just completed even one of his designs...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Trin

    The intellectual friendship between Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage is, accidentally, the most romantic thing I could have read about this Valentine's Day. The intellectual friendship between Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage is, accidentally, the most romantic thing I could have read about this Valentine's Day.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marlene

    Originally published at Reading Reality I finished this last night and it is great fun! I’m not totally sure what it is, but I had a terrific time reading it. When I say that I don’t know what it is, I’m referring to the ratio between fact and fiction. It certainly is a graphic novel, but with surprising points as both graphic and novel. Although it certainly feels novel, I’m not totally certain that it IS a novel, if you catch my drift. And if you like the kind of book where authors include lots o Originally published at Reading Reality I finished this last night and it is great fun! I’m not totally sure what it is, but I had a terrific time reading it. When I say that I don’t know what it is, I’m referring to the ratio between fact and fiction. It certainly is a graphic novel, but with surprising points as both graphic and novel. Although it certainly feels novel, I’m not totally certain that it IS a novel, if you catch my drift. And if you like the kind of book where authors include lots of asides that induce laughter and add information while being both tongue-in-cheek and also true, you will love this book. It purports to be a graphic novel that started as a webcomic about the fictional adventures of an alternate Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, where they actually managed to build Babbage’s famous Analytical Machine and Lovelace wrote programs for it that were able to be input, instead of the real world where Babbage started lots of inventions but never finished them, and Lovelace died of cancer in her mid-30s, after having written a seminal article on computer programming that she never got to see put into use. This fictional world is much more fun. But in detailing the fictional adventures of our intrepid hero and heroine, the author manages to insert an incredible amount of real information, often in the form of footnotes and asides, that is taken verbatim from contemporary accounts of Lovelace and Babbage. And there are LOTS of surviving documents. The Victorians were very prolific (or profligate) writers, and Babbage and Lovelace were both quasi-celebrities. Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron, and Babbage, was, well, Babbage. He held a mathematics professorship at Cambridge that had been formerly held by Isaac Newton. Babbage was also infamous for misplacing government grant money, including a large grant for his Difference Engine. Babbage held large, well-attended parties, and famously argued with lots of people, many of them influential, about lots of things. In public and in writing. Both Lovelace and Babbage were well-known mathematics geniuses, and they were good friends. The exact nature of that friendship is subject to debate, but they wrote to each other voluminously. In other words, the author of this book had oodles of material to work with. While the story that emerges in the webcomic is definitely fictional, the underpinning facts are relayed in a way that makes readers laugh out loud, and provides a surprising amount of understanding about two figures who did so much to create the computer revolution that we now live in – even though they hadn’t a clue at the time. Escape/Reality Rating A-: I am still not sure whether to call this fiction or nonfiction, hence the combination rating for both escapism and reality. The depiction of Babbage and Lovelace as somewhat mad inventors whose invention has definitely gotten out of hand is hilariously funny. Seeing them both as quintessential steampunk engineers, while not factually correct, rings surprisingly true. This is an alternate future that would have been so much fun! At the same time, that these two figures have become posthumously associated with a movement as full of beautiful design and style as steampunk is its own kind of funny. In real life, neither of them was exactly known for their sartorial elegance. Or even their sartorial tidyness. The individual stories are both funny and have that sense of feeling true without actually having been true. The chapter where George Eliot submits her manuscript to the Difference Engine for analysis has a lot of true things to say about Victorian writers in general, George Eliot in particular, and the nature of computers and computing capabilities, all in one swell foop. And I do mean swell foop – this is all fiction but it all still feels true. Ironically, I also feel like I learned more about the real Ada Lovelace from this fictionalized, cartoonish version of her life and works than I did from a less fictionalized, and also less fun, biography, Ada's Algorithm: How Lord Byron's Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age. That felt like gossip for the sake of gossip, where in Thrilling Adventures every seemingly silly aside is both grounded in fact and makes a point about its subject. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is a terrific, and terrifically funny book for anyone who wants to learn a little about the birth of computing and the outsize personalities of the Victorian era, while having a good chuckle.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Vishal Katariya

    I loved the concept! This is a fun and rollicking thing to read. The footnotes quite literally have a life of their own, and IMO are the best part of the book. Part research thesis, part flight of fancy -- say no more, you have me hooked. I feel like a significant amount more could've been done with the plot, but it's easy for me to say that. The way the characters were brought out, the satire of almost everyone involved, it's so fun and laugh-inducing. Reading books like this reminds me why I e I loved the concept! This is a fun and rollicking thing to read. The footnotes quite literally have a life of their own, and IMO are the best part of the book. Part research thesis, part flight of fancy -- say no more, you have me hooked. I feel like a significant amount more could've been done with the plot, but it's easy for me to say that. The way the characters were brought out, the satire of almost everyone involved, it's so fun and laugh-inducing. Reading books like this reminds me why I enjoy graphic novels, and more generally, why graphic novels are sometimes much more enjoyable than normal books.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    There were some things I really liked about this book but on the whole I'm not sure how well it worked for me. First, Padua has done her research and it shows. My favorite part of the books were the footnotes, which were fun, informative, and thorough. The information wasn't just about Lovelace and Babbage but about the Victorian era, other personalities, math, the history of math. They were really fun to read and I think I would have liked a book composed entirely of her footnotes and endnotes. There were some things I really liked about this book but on the whole I'm not sure how well it worked for me. First, Padua has done her research and it shows. My favorite part of the books were the footnotes, which were fun, informative, and thorough. The information wasn't just about Lovelace and Babbage but about the Victorian era, other personalities, math, the history of math. They were really fun to read and I think I would have liked a book composed entirely of her footnotes and endnotes. I liked her art too, though. It was expressive, cute, and creative. What I didn't like about this book was the "graphic novel" part. Basically the comic/story that came after page 28. There are about 16 pages of "nonfiction" biography about Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace. But Lovelace died young and Babbage never made his computing engines. So Padua decided it would be more exciting to imagine an alternate universe where they were able to build the machine and come up with "adventures" for them to have. The problem for me was that I did not like this alternate universe. The adventures were boring or confusing. After a while I stopped even trying to read the comic and just read the footnotes and the endnotes, which made up the vast majority of the words in the book and stayed nonfiction even as the story veered into strange and unappealing territory--what if Queen Victoria visited? what if George Eliot dropped by to have her book analyzed and then got lost inside the engine? what if the Duke of Wellington made them use the machine to help the economy? These imaginary scenarios held no interest for me, did not seem well plotted, and were pretty tedious. It's really unfortunate because I thoroughly enjoyed those 16 pages I mentioned earlier about the actual Lovelace and Babbage, and I continued to enjoy the footnotes throughout. They were much more interesting than the story. Padua obviously put a lot of work into this book. I admire her scholarship. The information she presented about Victorian personalities and history, math, and the history of math and computing were especially fascinating, and the biographical details of Babbage and Lovelace were amusing. I liked her tone, her energy, her perspective, and I appreciated so much the inclusion of some of her primary sources (and information on where to get more--she has a great bibliography). It is quite impressive and I really want to recognize that. Unfortunately for me, she took all my favorite things about the book and turned them into the footnotes to a rather dull and uninteresting story instead of making them the story and illustrating more cohesively all the information she imparts in the footnotes and endnotes. If she ever uses her great creative and research skills to write a book that is not an alternate-universe steampunk fantasy--and I hope she does--I am definitely hunting it down and reading it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marta

    Delightful, thoroughly researched, and discombobulated. Sidney Padua lovingly draws Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage's friendship, the (theoretical) invention of the first computer by Babbage, and the first computer program by Lovelace. Both were peculiar and memorable characters, whose friendship ranged from mathematical discourse to special fondness asnd squabbles. As Lovelace died young, which would make for a short book, Padua opts to keep her and their cooperation alive in a "Pocket Univers Delightful, thoroughly researched, and discombobulated. Sidney Padua lovingly draws Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage's friendship, the (theoretical) invention of the first computer by Babbage, and the first computer program by Lovelace. Both were peculiar and memorable characters, whose friendship ranged from mathematical discourse to special fondness asnd squabbles. As Lovelace died young, which would make for a short book, Padua opts to keep her and their cooperation alive in a "Pocket Universe", where they embark upon adventures addressing Victorian era problems in economy, literature, inventions and mathematics. I particularly liked the exlanations of math jokes in Alice in Wonderland - the dialogue makes a lot more sense to me now. I thoroughly enjoyed the content, however the format was a real chore that deducted from my enjoyment a lot. The cartoons are quite silly and often contrast the dialogue which is quoted from comtemporary texts; they also contrast the immense amount of information conveyed through footnotes, endnotes and appendixes. The cartoons are large, the footnotes are small font, the endnotes are larger font, and I had to keep two bookmarks to flip between endnotes and story, which was already disjointed into cartoons and footnotes. The cartoons/footnotes are often self-referential, which lightens this a bit; but smetimes they dissolve into complicated charts and even Esher-like turns into sideways or upside down. Padua clearly enjoyed the book, and so did I, but it would have been a lot better with a more linear story-telling style.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tagwa Warrag

    An autobigraphical comics about the history of computers in a way that exceeded my expectations. i love love love Ada Lovelace and reading about her work makes me appreciate more how people like her and Babbage paved the way for what we have today in technology. It makes me want to read more about people as Alan Turning, Grace Hopper, Margaret Hamilton, and many mooooore. Then I remembered how in high school we were taught about the earliest generations of mechanical calculaters and how they evol An autobigraphical comics about the history of computers in a way that exceeded my expectations. i love love love Ada Lovelace and reading about her work makes me appreciate more how people like her and Babbage paved the way for what we have today in technology. It makes me want to read more about people as Alan Turning, Grace Hopper, Margaret Hamilton, and many mooooore. Then I remembered how in high school we were taught about the earliest generations of mechanical calculaters and how they evolve to modern computers, the story of Charles Babbage BUT there was NOT a single word about Ada Lovelace in the computer books back then. Dunno why. anyway ... The amount of researching that Sydney has put into this book is just tremendously tremendously impressing! And the funny & cool way she used in telling the facts and stories just made it even more awesom-er !! I was even laughing out loud at some parts while reading it on public bus! I think no one else would have illustrated it a better way. This comics simply cant get any better i think it is perfect. I was a bit lost at some of the mechanical details but it is always good to get general knowledge about these stuff. I just want to thank Al Rashied For bringing me a hardcover copy from UAE. Forever grateful. : )

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bekah

    This is not your average graphic novel. In fact, it is more akin to a highly humorous and well illustrated text book. If you love history, mathematics, coding/computing/etc, then this is right up your alley. Go grab it right now! Others may find it very interesting as well, but may feel overwhelmed by all the footnotes/end notes/annotations/references. You could easily just flick through and enjoy the art, but I recommend slowing down and taking the time to read. It was fascinating and I was tho This is not your average graphic novel. In fact, it is more akin to a highly humorous and well illustrated text book. If you love history, mathematics, coding/computing/etc, then this is right up your alley. Go grab it right now! Others may find it very interesting as well, but may feel overwhelmed by all the footnotes/end notes/annotations/references. You could easily just flick through and enjoy the art, but I recommend slowing down and taking the time to read. It was fascinating and I was thoroughly impressed by how much research and attention to detail was put into it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Steven Brown

    A superb example of what a free ranging and creative graphic novel can be. Imagine a mashup between computing, Victorian engineering, and "The Avengers" (Steed and Peel, not that comics stuff.) Very educational and enormous fun. Highly recommended. Hope for more Victoriana and science history from Padua. A superb example of what a free ranging and creative graphic novel can be. Imagine a mashup between computing, Victorian engineering, and "The Avengers" (Steed and Peel, not that comics stuff.) Very educational and enormous fun. Highly recommended. Hope for more Victoriana and science history from Padua.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Afro Madonna

    2.5 stars maybe ? But that's just me . Actually surprised i finished reading this . Read the comics , just didn't read all the endnotes (quite tedious ). You can tell Sydney Padua did put in a lot of work because it is very well researched and the artwork is pretty awesome too but it just wasn't for me . Wasn't totally bad . I think I'll bump it up to 3 stars because the book deserves it . 2.5 stars maybe ? But that's just me . Actually surprised i finished reading this . Read the comics , just didn't read all the endnotes (quite tedious ). You can tell Sydney Padua did put in a lot of work because it is very well researched and the artwork is pretty awesome too but it just wasn't for me . Wasn't totally bad . I think I'll bump it up to 3 stars because the book deserves it .

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ana María

    Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! Highly recommended to anyeveryone. Padua takes a footnote in history and creates a Pocket Universe of lovely possibility (full of historical footnotes of her own). Thanks to Minkowski space-time, there are even more adventures (and hilarity) to be had.

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