Happy (ever so slightly belated in the UK as I post this) Babbage’s Birthday everyone! I know everyone’s favourite part of the annual celebrations is the Numbers Banquet and the Parade of Algorithms, but for the TRUE MEANING of Babbage’s Birthday you ought to rejoice in the Mechanism Sermon, herein…
Sorry about the rambling, total lack of pedagogic structure, and my irritating squeaky voice! I did this for a thing but recalled I promised to explain how this thing worked like, a year ago.. anyways now you know what the lovely rippling arms on the back of the Engine do:
By the way the ‘chack!’ sound that it makes is the locks that click down to stop the wheels, that’s the long grey wedge thing on screen right.
So I have approximately 47 items on my todo list marked URGENT!! and my inbox zero status is at inbox +63 so naturally it’s time to mess around with tshirt designs!
This year I’m doing something a bit different, I’ve always wanted to do a screenprint which is nicer but that takes, like, work and planning and stuff. Well wonders of the tech age, Teespring will apparently take care of the faff– IF and ONLY IF enough shirts are reserved. (EDITED TO ADD: We’ve already cleared the bar for printing so there WILL be tshirts!), Here they are:
If you rejoice in living in Europe, it might be cheaper to go the ol’ reliable zazzle route for the shirts on account of the shipping costs, depends on what options you pick.. you might want to compare. Zazzle version (it looks a bit duller than it would when printed:
Though I am not swift, never say I am indifferent to the plaintive cries of my loyal long-suffering remaining shreds of readers! With GREAT SUFFERING and much against my inclinations, I drew you a Brunel paper doll- clicky for printable size.
To go with your paper dolls, you will of course be wanting some primary documents. Do you have the eyes of a very young eagle in peak condition? If you have, you can read heaps of Brunel in the proceedings at the tempestuous meeting of railway men in 1839, regarding whether or not to adopt broad gauge tracks– “giant gauge for giant engines!” Debate rages over whether the rails for the kingdom’s infant railway network should be standardised to a puny 4 ft 8 1?2 inches apart, or a magnificent, monumental 7 ft 1?4 inches apart, for trains bigger, faster, and smoother for the comfortable consumption of coffee. Which one do you think Brunel favoured? Go on, guess!
If it’s too tiny for you you can at least enjoy the marvellous title bar:
And who else was at this historic meeting? Why Charles Babbage! Speaking at great length in support of Brunel and on all sorts of subjects (hear! hear!); if you have excellent eyesight, some patience, and an obsessive interest in Charles Babbage, you can catch a real sense of his speaking style in the transcript. Here he feelingly remarks on how much easier it is to come up with an invention, that it is to raise the money for it:
And here is something quite wonderful, turned up in A Random Walk In Science, a miscellany of mild amusements from various periods in science. It includes a rather ponderously sarcastic little drama (with a musical number!) from Herapath’s Railway Journal from 1845. The comedy revolves around (unfortunately justified) mockery of the practicability of Brunel’s Atmospheric Railway, a plan to literally suck train cars along rails via giant pumps and hollow tubes. We join the scene after some non-Brunel jocularity; stick around at least for the killer last line.
Happy Ada Lovelace Day people! Every day is Ada Lovelace Day here at 2dgoggles, if you’re new to the site you’re probably looking for Lovelace: The Origin! Which is a brisk introduction to Lovelace and what she’s all about.
The FIRST thing I should say is that the gif above is totally wrong, the programming cards didn’t go end-to-end like that but lengthwise like this– and had they existed would have been made of heavy card that would be a giant pain to animate. Seldom, I must say, have I felt closer or more sympathetic to Lady Lovelace than when spending months trying to get my head around, and then explain, Babbage’s impossibly complicated machine! I have failed to make any great world-changing intellectual breakthroughs in the process however. Over the next few months I’ll be putting a bunch of Analytical Engine stuff up so stay tuned for that. Also, comics!
Appropriate to the day, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage has a cover!!
That links to the Amazon US site, should you care to preorder, and be astonished six months from now by a strange artifact appearing inexplicably in your mailbox. Ditto UK! Erm… the description still suggests the Book contains The Organist, which we unfortunately had to jettison to attain more lift. We’ll get that fixed up!
Traditionally on Ada Day I provide some novel primary documents, so I hunted down a couple of women-in-STEM celebrations from days of yore.. first up, the Babbage-boosters at Mechanics Magazine have a shout-out to Lovelace in an 1851 Babbage retrospective:
(Lovelace wrote the notes anonymously, of course, but was outed by the Statistical Society in 1848, “with the permission of Lord Lovelace”).
A positive roster of accomplished women from a speaker advocating for women’s suffrage, 1852– early indeed, and accompanied by ambiguous ‘laughter’:
PS– I’ve had requests for a small version of the lovelace looping gif, here you go:
Thank you so much for all the kind words about the book! It’s good to be back! And there is as of yet no angry mob of Organist diehards gathered neath my window!
In gratitude, I know if there’s one aching need in your lives that’s unfulfilled right now, it’s..
PRINTABLE LOVELACE AND BABBAGE PAPER DOLLS!
I’m not 100% sure why I drew those, unless it’s to go with the Lovelace and Babbage paper theatre sets I’ve been doodling.
So the BOOK IS DONE!
Okay, done-ish. Mostly done! Approaching done parameters. As you can see, I’m currently working on covers, because they didn’t like the stark white one with “No image available” on it as a post-modern exploration of ‘coverness’ over at Pantheon. Philistines!
Dang that’s freaky.
Within the yet-to-be-determined covers you will find… COMICS!
The long-absent and much-missed User Experience!
Millions of footnotes! Too many footnotes for Our Own Dear Queen!
Also, something I spent a really ridiculous amount of time on..
If I do say so myself the most complete diagrams of the Analytical Engine ever published, possibly, at least in a graphic novel? With cats in? WITH!!! as far as anyone I could
badger inquire of knows, the first drawing of the whole thing as it might have looked, had it ever been built. And you people better read it because it took me bloody AGES and there WILL be a quiz.
Now, as for the bad news.. this is kind of agonising:
Soooo.. remember when I said it was over 400 pages? The bad news is that.. we lost The Organist. I know! I burst into tears too!! The thing was it was getting to 145 pages with the endnotes and making a very awkward structure in the book, and promising never to be finished, at least not to my satisfaction and in time for my editors very, very extreme and bottomless patience to run out. I mean you can still read Organist right here on the website! Any time you like! For free! With simultaneous youtube concertina accompaniment! Please don’t rouse an angry mob! We have hopes of putting out Organist with another long-form Lovelace and Babbage story as its own thing, assuming anyone reads the first book.
Well, that’s the bad news. The good news is a bunch of new stuff, such as..
Attack of the Luddites!
Special Guest Star George Boole!
(just a little highly sophisticated Boole comedy for you there)
Also I did a whole Alice in Wonderland story just for YOU–
(okay just for ME, because I love dream sequences).
I’ll be back here on the blog again, now that I’ve fought my way out of the Abominable Quagmire Of Graphic Novels, from which few have ever returned! With tales of terror! and more primary documents that didn’t make it into the book because they didn’t want 600 pages of primary documents for some reason! and most of all comics!!!!
Yeaaaaaah.. it’s been a while! Suffice to say, yes I’m still working on The Book. It is loooong. Over 400 pages of comics! Analytical Engine diagrams such as have never been seen before! Footnotes, and footnotes to footnotes, and endnotes, and still more footnotes! But take cheer, me hearties, I do believe that is land I see, in the far-off distance.. or it could just be more comic in this endless sea..
Lovelace and Babbage, Thrilling Adventures Thereof, coming out in 2015 sometime, partly because it takes like 9 months to actually print a book apparently and partly because I’m a terrible human being. 2015 happily also happens to be Ada Lovelace’s 200 birthday so it will be a big year all around!
As I slowly surface from the inky depths I’ll start posting here again, gently and slowly. Watch out for those comics, kids, they’ll get ya..
Happy Ada Lovelace Day everybody! If you’re new to this blog, you will probably want to start with Lovelace: The Origin, so you know who everybody is.
The last couple of Ada Lovelace Days I wrote about a few other women around our heroine, but today I want to come back to Lovelace herself. You usually hear about Lovelace the programmer but it’s Lovelace the visionary that’s been on my mind lately.
Slowly taking shape like some monstrous unairworthy Zeppelin behind the scenes here is the Leviathan culmination of this comic, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, The Book and fully-functioning doorstop. Coming.. a year from now. Yeah sorry.
As part of the book I’ve been undertaking the task of visualising the Analytical Engine. Not the one that lurks ambiguously in the backgrounds of the comics but the real one from Babbage’s plans. Hoo boy let me tell you however complicated you think this thing is, raise that to the power of six right away because oh. my. god. Babbage what kind of brain did you have in there? It’s been very enlightening however and hopefully I can start blogging about it soon!
Here’s some of it:
Trust me it’s waaaaaay bigger than that. Anyhow working on this thing has definitely cemented my awe of both Babbage and Lovelace, Babbage because, well, geez just look at this thing, and Lovelace because a)she could get her head around it without a 3d modelling program, and b) because she realised, which even Babbage didn’t, that this thing was a computer. That is, the equations it could potentially handle were not just numerical ones, but logical equations.
Like Babbage, the deeper I get into Lovelace’s paper the more I am astonished at this insight because it not only not obvious, it’s one of the least obvious things anyone has ever thought of, at least of the category of things that turn out to be right. It’s even less obvious than you think it is because even the very idea of using mathematics symbolically was new and even controversial even in the 1830s.
Very much not by coincidence two of the biggest names on the pro-symbols and anti-symbols sides were tutors of Ada Lovelace. On the anti side we have William Frend, a mathematician so conservative he was against negative numbers. On the subject of symbolic mathematics (which to be fair had shaky theoretical underpinnings at this point) he wrote “Give me certainty not uncertainty, science not art!” You will be delighted to learn that he’s the guy who told Lady Byron that Ada should be taught mathematics “as it is a subject that could not possibly give rise to any objectionable thoughts”.
On the other side, Lovelace’s later and most important teacher Augustus de Morgan— Frend’s son-in-law! so you can imagine the dinner table arguments, the debt-ceiling would be nothing to them (jk- they got along famously, just not mathematically). De Morgan wrote some of the earliest books in which you see someone reaching towards a mathematical expression of logic:
That’s from First Notions of Logic Prepratory to the Study of Geometry which he published the year Lovelace started working on the Analytical Engine. Lovelace published her paper on the Engine five years before Boole’s Laws of Thought, which was (I think?) the first complete mathematisation of logic.
There’s a nice paper free online if you’re a super-dork about this stuff btw, which contains the following seemingly devastating refutation of the anti-symbolists by Augustus de Morgan:
I’m surprised to see so eminent a logician as de Morgan make such an elementary error, as any child could so easily disprove this with -(pooh)n n=infinity+1. But even geniuses can be human, as lord knows I’ve learned from writing this book.
I think the thing that gave Lovelace this idea that you could do mechanical logic came from this widget, one of the many many manyn widgets on the Engine:
This is one of the barrel controls that does.. something I’m not completely sure on (this is a HIGHLY simplified version by the way, the real version has about 4 times as many bits and has 50 rows of pegs or something). Pay particular attention to the peg on the very top- you see how it only activates is lever if there’s a peg and the other little lever is interposed. If. And. IF. AND. These are logic concepts and this is why Lovelace writes:
Whether the inventor of this engine had any such views in his mind while working out the invention, or whether he may subsequently ever have regarded it under this phase, we do not know; but it is one that forcibly occurred to ourselves on becoming acquainted with the means through which analytical combinations are actually attained by the mechanism. […]It seems to us obvious, however, that where operations are so independent in their mode of acting, it must be easy, by means of a few simple provisions, and additions in arranging the mechanism, to bring out a double set of results, viz.—1st, the numerical magnitudes which are the results of operations performed on numerical data. (These results are the primary object of the engine.) 2ndly, the symbolical results to be attached to those numerical results, which symbolical results are not less the necessary and logical consequences of operations performed upon symbolical data, than are numerical results when the data are numerical.
So Happy Ada Lovelace Day and as you use your computers today in all their myriad forms think of that candlelit room all those years ago when someone thought, “Heeeeeeeey….”
Some housekeeping notes!
I’m speaking at the first ever conference on Ada Lovelace this Friday in at the Stevens Institute, so come along if you happen to live in the environs of New York city!
Also for New Yorkers, I’m speaking (though virtually by Skype) at Thoughtworks NYC at their fab-sounding Ada Lovelace bash!
Everybody else in the world, there are endless great ALD events all over our fine planet!
I am informed that commenting is broken, I THINK only one the post preceding this one. If there’s no comments on this post either comments are still broken, or you are all preserving a frosty silence at my lack of comics production, and who can say which?