Babbage and Lovelace Vs The Client

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series The Client

Took me a while but.. prepare for A TALE OF TERROR! DRAWN FROM LIFE!!!

The client
The client
The client
The client
The client
The client

On to The Client Part 2!

Notes! Beautiful notes!

–Footmen were selected for their fine physiques, so that drawing of Minion is of historical, not prurient interest, or course!

–Speaking tubes! Babbage advocates for them in Machines and Manufactures, along with his proto-twitter signal lights and steeple-borne message zip-lines. Prolific letter writer and relentless socializer Babbage was almost as interested in rapid communication as he was with computation, but his unfortunate location in the time-stream was just as against him there. He died the same year Meucci patented the first telephone. *sigh*

–Did Charles Babbage really try a decimal calendar? Of course not.. he was a perfectly sensible supporter of decimal currency (but if you want to see a truly awesome mechanical calendar have a look at this baby!) I’m also needlessly promulgating absent-minded-professor stereotypes here, as I have a feeling Babbage would actually have been a super-organized neat freak. True though is Babbage’s famous and expensive habit of continually improving his inventions halfway through and abandoning the old model.

–That’s Canaletto saving me a heck of a lot of annoying drawing there. Thanks Canaletto!

–Ada’s Byronic Containment Field– I wasn’t making that up in The Origin, about her mother’s experiment in using Mathematics to contain poetry. A glance over Lovelace’s biography shows this to have been a pretty epic fail. Byron himself, though he never saw his daughter, took a great interest in her and writes the following:

“Her temper is said to be extremely violent– is it so? it is not unlikely considering her parentage– my temper is what it is– as you may perhaps divine.”

It’s unfortunate that Lady Byron tried this experiment before the genetics work of Mendel, because then this outcome could easily have been predicted. Byron being obviously a dominant trait, we can make the following chart:

Byron X Mathematics produces:

2 x Mad Scientists
1 x Dangerously Repressed Mathematician
1 x Poet Using Experimental Meters

Can’t argue with Science! In the pocket dimension in which this comic takes place (thanks Justin in the comments for the proper technical term!) the Ada Experiment may react differently to the allohistorical conditions.. time will tell!! Stay tuned!

Speaking of Rational Explanations, I’ve discovered why exactly the Difference Engine is that big:

The client

The pocket dimension actually operates on a kind of inverse Moore’s law, whereby computers double in size every few years. It is fortunate that the Difference Engine facilitated rapid technological expansion, as when it reached the time parallel to our own they had to colonize the moon just for storage!

In administrative news– By day I’m battling giant monsters (no, really!), so I’m trying to figure out the feasibility of these hijinks. I THINK I can keep a pretty steady pace of an episode every two weeks. I dunno. We’ll see what the giant monsters think.

By the way– I’m painfully aware of the navigational mess that is this semi-comic-ish thing… anyone have any bright ideas for organizing this stuff better?

On to The Client Pt 2!

Series NavigationNext Thrilling Installment!


  1. […] Part 1 […]

  2. Ashley on December 10, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    “Byron containment field failing”

  3. Thom Doonan on February 14, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    I love L & B Vs. The Client. Very very amusing and delight to the eye. I actually laughed our loud and applauded the illustrations. (TINK.. Tink. tink…….tink….. tink tink tink) Still makes me chuckle.

    Please hurry the other stories out to the iPad App. I have re-read The Client several times and am really looking forward to reading the others complete with rotate-a-vision notes.

  4. megp on February 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Of course when you are paying another man to dress you, HE MUST BE HOT. It’s not homoerotic AT ALL.

  5. […] and Lovelace vs. The Client: Part 1, Part 2, Part […]

  6. Andrew on January 11, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Sydney, I just want to add in my “please don’t worry about the schedule thing, just do them as you can” sentiments. This is such a treat, and as such, should be looked at as something to be relished when it can happen. I found it in a serendipitous fashion, and serendipity can be neither forced nor expected, so you just keep doing as you can, and we as your “fans” will simply support you with our undying loyalty, admiration and great big wodges of cash our undying gratitude…

  7. Michael on November 7, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    sydney, the smart moneynow seems to be on a plugin called EG-Series (
    I have installed it and found it to be a source of unalloyed “it really works!” joy.
    There’s a forum post that sheds some light on EG-series’ advantages here:
    (I removed the http bit so that your spam monitor doesn’t get all stroppy.)
    All the best,

    • sydney on November 8, 2009 at 3:21 pm

      Cheers Michael– looking into it now! By the way your blog is wonderful– I’m sure we must know some of the same people.. one degree of separation!

  8. Redshift on September 18, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Did Charles Babbage really try a decimal calendar?

    Maybe not, but one was declared during the French Revolution, as part of the original version of the metric system. It never caught on, however.

  9. Michael on July 31, 2009 at 11:16 am

    @sydney: Plaisir!

  10. Michael on July 29, 2009 at 12:37 am

    Darrien Ethier’s “Organise Series” plugin can be found at –

    Tadlock’s offering is less likely to be made redundant by the headlong advances of the WordPress dev team, because he’s using one of the new WordPress taxonomies to do the grunt work.

    I pointed my dear friend Michael Schlingmann at your blog. Oddly enough, it was the day after I stood in front of Babbage’s difference engine. Is there some spooky steampunk mojo at work?

    • sydney on July 30, 2009 at 8:41 pm

      Oh that looks perfect!! Thank you!

  11. Michael on July 29, 2009 at 12:01 am

    There are two WordPress plugins that will sort out your navigation headaches, and present chronologically awkward posts as if they were one mellifluous flow.
    Justin Tadlock’s “Series” plugin, and Darren Ethier’s “Organise Series”.
    I’ll put the first URL here:
    …and put the second one in the following comment box, so as to avoid being fritzed by Akismet.

  12. Jonathan C Marquiss on July 25, 2009 at 8:46 am

    I love your art style, the expressions are fantastically done, can’t say enough about them. The bubble of the story and its arc is wonderful, and your notes with the story are great to read.
    I’m always looking forward to the next one, so thusly I render to you this kudos; well done^_^.

  13. Justin Pickard on July 13, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Michael is totally on the money with his Brunel-Jackman suggestions!

    Any other thoughts for voice actors? I can totally see Rachel Weisz as Ada.

  14. Elderman on July 12, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Love the comics, they’re a lot of fun. Above all, you seem to be having fun and it’s infectious.

    I do hope the engineers in your pocket dimension discover miniaturization eventually, though. I did a few napkin-back sums and if I remember my school maths right and if Lesse’s Law (?) applies to internal volume and holds true through the 20th century, I think the size of a difference engine at a time parallel to our own would be roughly equal to that of the Sun.

    That’s with starting volume = 100 m^3 * 80 doubling cycles (2^80) of two years each compared with a figure for the Sun’s volume without the corona taken from Wikipedia: 1.412×10^27 m^3.

    Exponential growth is scary stuff.

  15. Michael M. Butler on July 12, 2009 at 2:52 am

    My word. I know it’s typecasting and he’s too expensive, so my recommendation for Brunel is /the next/ Hugh Jackman, whoever that turns out to be. In the pocket universe where this gets turned into a movie, I mean. Jackman can play the voice actor role in the animated version. Maybe.

    And as for why the footman is en déshabillé, I should think a decent person would know better than to even ask the question where royalty is concerned. Really!

    Love the work! Please keep having fun with it!

  16. David Harmon on July 11, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I can’t seem to find your credit at the CotT page — but I’m guessing this is you? Anyway, cool stuff here, keep it clacking (also hissing, chugging, occasionally exploding, etc. ;-))!

  17. JB on July 11, 2009 at 6:20 am

    I followed a link on a friend’s page here, and just spent THREE HOURS reading. THREE HOURS.

    …I think I need to spend the next several weeks tracking back through your posts and reading all of Babbage and Lovelace’s publishings, too. *dies*


  18. jalf on July 8, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Oh yeah, the t-shirts are awesome! Or at least the one I bought is. \o/

  19. Nick Harkaway on July 8, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Padua, you’re a goddess. This stuff is fabulous. I am consumed with envy and delight every time I read it – which is a lot.

    Now I have to go back and slave over what feels like an incomparably impoverished story of my own.

    Curse you, and your endlessly inventive pencils! May you keep doing this, lots, for a long, long time! Yes! For a LOOoooOOOoong time! BwahahahahaHAHAHA!… eh? Oh. No, no, I don’t suppose it was a very terrible curse. All right, I’ll think of something else.

    (Just loving it.)


  20. sydney on July 8, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Will– those are great suggestions for the navigation! RE: Ada. Fear not, citizen! The vast entertainment possibilities in the Apollonian/Dionysian war zone that was Ada Lovelace are a large part of what obsesses me about this story; I’ve just made it a bit more.. comicbooky. You may particularly enjoy “Electro-Animal-Magnetism” which I’m kind of toying with right now, although there’s not much there yet except that Michal Faraday has to wind up in a cage at some point. For the dark secret at the heart of 2dgoggles I refer you to the Motto, viewable in the lower right hand corner of their home page. SPOILERS!!

    ADude– I don’t know, it just kind of happened.

    musiccaptain– olives, for a vegetable.

  21. musiccaptain on July 8, 2009 at 5:13 am

    Enquiring minds need to know: is the gin unalloyed or are there other secret ingredients? Actually, substituting tea for coffee, and your source of power is rather as Victorian as steam!

  22. ADdude on July 8, 2009 at 3:17 am

    Why was that guy not wearing a shirt?

  23. Ceridwen on July 8, 2009 at 2:58 am

    The shirts look fantastic! If I did too, they’d look even better. :D

  24. Will Warner on July 8, 2009 at 1:51 am

    I absolutely ADORE this comic! Thank you so much! I mean, really, my enthusiasm positively overflows! I guess it makes sense that sooner or later webcomics would include more and more awesomeness neatly tailored to my own odd tastes, as more and more webcomics arose; I was also impressed when xkcd came along. But yours is far, far better even than that. Well done!

    I hated the navigation at first; scrolly goodness for each episode is just right, but I thought each entry did need “next” and “previous” links, instead of having all of them on top of each other in newest-to-oldest order. Then I realized that if you click the title of an entry, it takes you to a page of just that entry, and at the very top there are indeed links to the next and previous entries. So I think you just need to make people aware of this fact, maybe by somehow making those links flashier or something, or making index.html go to the latest entry instead of to the whole blog, and then all will be well navigationally. I guess it would be nice to include “First” and “Last” links, too; most webcomics have “first, prev, next, last” links above or below each comic. Posting little blog notes beneath each one is also common. See “Three Panel Soul” or “Something Positive” to see what I mean. Frankly I’m impressed that wordpress is working as well as it is for this; any technology that lets more creators publish without having to do tedious stuff like web design is a boon as far as I’m concerned, and wordpress is good at that.

    I guess you could just paste a little set of four text or image links at the top of each entry for first, previous, next, and last; that’d be a little bit of a hassle, but not too bad, and very easy on newcomers.

    I agree that you don’t need to stress too much about a publication schedule. We’ll be grateful for whatever, whenever.

    I do have one suggestion, about Ada. It certainly seems that if you want to encourage more girls to get interested in math and science and grow up to be woman scientists, thereby balancing the profession a bit, you should portray woman geeks respectfully, and it certainly seems respectful to portray female geeks as reasonable, stern, capable people, which is how Ada started out. But are those really the portrayals that encourage people to become geeks? Or do boys get interested in math and science *because* all the male geeks are portrayed as wild, subversive, creative, half-mad buffoons, always coming up with some madcap hare-brained Wile E. Coyote scheme and having a wild fun exciting time of it, even if they do wind up hurting themselves too fairly often? Likewise, do boys want to be geeks to seem calm and in control, as Ada and most other female geeks are portrayed, or do they like math and science because it seems to give them a chance to be wild and inventive and out of control? In short, I’d say you should embrace the historically accurate idea of Ada as a creative, temperamental, loose cannon, and that in fact this will do the most to encourage girls to enjoy math and science and to encourage the fields to be better balanced between men and women.

    Once again, a twenty one gun salute to you for this magnificent masterpiece in progress!

  25. sydney on July 7, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    -musiccaptian– the mysterious power is coffee and gin in carefully balanced quantities.

    -John– this may sound weird, but the pocket-dimension thing makes me feel better. These were real people after all, but if they’re in a pocket dimension, they’re different people, so they’re fair game, see? Logic!

    -Ceridwen– Minion is his name– Sam Minion. He has a backstory and everything, that’s why I can draw him with great accuracy. I’m thinking Paul Bettany for the film version. How do the tshirts look??!

    -Anon– my audience is not large, but is choice.

    Everybody– thanks so much for commenting! I’m a huge hypocrite because I hardly ever comment on stuff I enjoy, but it’s always a treat to get feedback. I’m in it for the glory. A simple pinned post sounds like the easiest navigation solution, good idea!

  26. jalf on July 7, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    As far as navigation goes, as long as there’s a simple way to get to 1) the first strip, and 2) the latest one, I think you’re good.

    Of course, if the “next” link works too, so you can easily read the whole thing in chronological order, that’s a nice bonus.

  27. Anon, a Mouse on July 7, 2009 at 2:33 am

    Hoo-YAH, Brunel!! Love that he’s your rational explanation for the size of the Difference Engine in your series. Robert Howlett’s photograph of him in front of the anchor chain was one of my early influences to pick up a camera.

    The organization seems all right, but I agree with John in that a “new readers start here” button would be nice. The footnotes to each episode are BRILLIANT, and make the whole thing even funnier. Thanks for the links as well. You’ve provided me with several conversation topics and contributions for the dinners I spend with a quirky group of scientists, physicists, engineers, glass artists, machinists and one antiquarian printer who collects linotypes… and that’s saying something.

  28. Dan Someone on July 6, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Please do not stress about maintaining any sort of regular schedule for this. It’s glorious wherever and whenever found. As for organization, I’ve never had any problems finding my way around; but you might consider, when the dust settles a bit, compiling the whole shebang into a graphic novel — with all your commentary as well.

  29. Ivan on July 6, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    I was thankful I didn’t have any colleagues in my office when I reached the “Byron containment field failing” panel! Absolutely hilarious again. The comic remains fantastic work and the savvy commentary around it only improves it.

    I’m afraid I can’t offer any sensible suggestions about the organisation – I come directly to the new pages through RSS.

  30. Ellie on July 6, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    So nice to see more stuff out on 2D Goggles! Although reading it at work has problems when you’re trying not to laugh out loud in an office – at least the office is full of scientists so they’re more likely to appreciate it. I love the Brunel justification for the large difference engines and the shot of Aida in the engine its self is very striking.

    Also as for organisation – I love the way that you post stuff that’s related to the people or the age as well as the comics which makes the whole thing feel more rounded and adds a lot to the whole 2D goggles experience. – Ok, I’m probably over-talking this but I’m enjoying reading all this so much it’s hard to put into words without using far too many of them.

    Keep up the fantastic work!

  31. Justin Pickard on July 6, 2009 at 10:56 am

    On the navigation front, maybe you need some kind of timeline interface? Something like this hilariously complex diagram of the indie film Primer?

  32. Tobias on July 6, 2009 at 6:38 am

    I think that the Byron Containment Field is the relish on the proverbial hot dog. I as well think that the ultimate Babbage machine would be paradoxically large.

  33. Ceridwen on July 6, 2009 at 5:43 am

    Navigational mess? So far I haven’t had any trouble navigating it. I don’t think. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when .jpg 1 ends and .jpg 2 begins, but that’s easy enough to figure out.

    I’m not seeing Babbage as so much an absent-minded scientist as I am seeing him as someone with different priorities.

    Loved the “That’s four versions out of date” comment. Sums it all up so well! And love Minion’s state of dress. He was out of the loop, too. (Is that really his name? Or is it just his designation?)

    Hey. Got my tee-shirts – the They Fight Crime one and Need an Engineer. :D

  34. John on July 6, 2009 at 2:24 am

    First, I’m very much enjoying this. I’ll stop there before I giddily rap out seven paragraphs on subtle details that of course you know are there because they don’t draw themselves in. (I don’t know how I feel about the pocket dimension, though. It’s not like anybody came in expecting a documentary.)

    Second, the organization does feel weird, but it seems to work fine. I came in through “the front door” (where I also direct people), and then can use the 2dgoggles URL for the latest. No matter how you slice it, even with custom software, you worry about “where did I leave off” and “where do new readers start,” though.

    On the other hand, this is a WordPress installation, right? I think there’s a setting (or a plugin) that lets you have a persistent first article. Something like “if you’re new here, start reading yon” is probably all you need.

    (Meanwhile, I have my theory on the identity of the oft-mentioned vampire poet, who happens to be a very appropriate choice, but I’ll keep quiet on the subject in case I’m right. It’s about time the other book written at that party finally gets some adaptation love.)

    Best of luck with the monsters.

  35. musiccaptain on July 6, 2009 at 1:48 am

    Steam, nothing! I want to know about the miraculous power that makes you tick! Astonished and delighted, as always!