Lovelace and Babbage Vs. The Client Pt 2

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series The Client

It’s actually taken this long for Minion to get through all of Queen Victoria’s titles..













On to The Client Part 3!

So historically accurate IT’S PRACTICALLY A DOCUMENTARY!

-Babbage lists some of the annoying questions he got asked about his engines here.  He ascribes the question about the wrong numbers sometimes to ‘ladies’ and sometimes to ‘members of Parliament’;  having lost count of the number of times I’ve explained to people that I can still be an animator even  though ‘it’s all done with computers now’ I have no problem believing this was asked more than once.

- Charles Babbage’s many friends spent a lot of time kicking him in the shins, because every once in a while he seems to have enjoyed setting his career on fire in order to watch the pretty flames. His friend Herschel said he should be ‘slapped in the face’ for Dear Royal Society of Really Important People: You Are All Corrupt Idiots!; I particularly like the dedication- “I was going to dedicate this to some guy but now he’s frantically backpedalling for some reason!”

Oh Babbage. Babbage! What are you doing? You are CAUSING PAIN to even your devoted friends at The Chemical Record! By the way that review is excellent (I say that as a devoted Babbage fanatic), read in conjunction with Babbage’s Guide to the Exposition of 1851 it gives a good overview of the state of scientific societies at the time. If you’re into that sort of thing, I don’t know. It also gives a glimpse into what the placards in the Science Museum call Babbage’s ‘personality issues’.

- “The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.” I know Victoria’s font is really annoying but it’s actually called “The King and Queen Font” so I had to use it. Just this once.

- The debugging crowbar is the actual crowbar used to debug the Difference Engine rebuild!

-You can see the woven portrait of Jacquard in the background there, whose punchcard loom inspired Babbage with the idea for the Analytical Engine.

- Ladies and Gentlemen, The Cheese Story. It’s kiiind of like Flatland, but with.. more… cheese. Charles Babbage, what is that doing in your autobiography? As Babbage was a famous raconteur, and his autobiography is full of his greatest hits, I guess he had a good reaction to it at some point.. maybe it’s all in the timing.

I’ve got a lot more notes, but they’ll go on part 3.. I’ve drawn most of it so should it shouldn’t too long coming. Apologies are despicable and excuses more so, but in addition to the whole Giant Monsters thing I’ve been concurrently working on another commission. You may ask yourself, “what could possibly equal BBC Techlab in coolness?” OMG I’m not worthy!!

On to The Client Part 3!

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30 Responses to “Lovelace and Babbage Vs. The Client Pt 2”

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  1. Tim Jones says:

    Another great episode! But I wonder whether Queen Victoria was quite as devoid of intelligence as she’s portrayed here. She does speak in a most excellent font, however.

  2. tom says:

    I so want a debugging crowbar. Ada had the coolest sysdmin job ever.

  3. The “The King and Queen Font” is certainly difficult to read, but it does conveys her royal tone quite nicely. I would keep it.

  4. DU says:

    The “I am not able to comprehend the confusion” response is one of my faves ever. I wish I had the cojones to use it more often.

  5. DU says:

    Oh and the delta^7 remark was both hilarious and accurate, so kudos on that.

  6. Ebony14 says:

    I fear that, in an attempt to talk with Her Majesty, Ada may be getting dangerously close to … poetry! Her Ladyship should be careful; first you’re comparing things to Jacquart’s Loom, and the next thing you know, you’re writing algebraic proofs in iambic pentameter. And then your notorious father is off somewhere cackling hysterically. Of course that might just be the opium; one never can tell with His Lordship….

  7. Nick Johnson says:

    Most excellent!

    I have a query for you: Would your offer of a prize for the first person to build a difference engine apply to a simulation of a difference engine? I’ve been pondering what would be required to write a difference engine emulator (not of the physical mechanical parts, but of the effects of the components).

    Along those lines, can you recommend an authoritative text for the specifications of the difference engine?

  8. Nick Johnson says:

    Sorry, I meant to say “analytical engine”, not “difference engine”, and I sadly appear to have been anticipated: http://www.fourmilab.ch/babbage/contents.html

  9. ted says:

    Wow that commission at the Museum of the History of Science will easily thwart your BBC stuff. I can see it now. Totally looking forward to that.

    Honestly this part is a so so for me. The font Really put me off. yes maybe utilized it on the first letter of what the Queen is to say maybe, but not every word. I did enjoy the little cheese anecdote. clever.

    Truly the best part was Wellington’s single frame stating his interruptions. His face is just pure brilliance. Please make a t-shirt with that single panel, maybe saying something different or even adding his horse with its beady little eyes, also charming.

    Thanks again looking forward to part 3.

  10. Ceridwen says:

    Ahhh! Another installment! Congrats on the museum stuff!

  11. Tobias says:

    Babbage’s cheese anecdote was, perhaps, the most absurdly dry telling of a spiritual encounter I have ever managed to read through.

    The font choice was correct, I feel.

  12. Magdalena K. says:

    I love the King & Queen font … it is perfect for the young Victoria.

    I need to work back to Part I … but are the nearly-naked guy and the horse explained? And does the horse (Copenhagen?) understand the Engine better than the Queen (I saw it said “oooh” along with Victoria and Wellington)?

    So many questions …

  13. Smallpotato says:

    Oi! Queen Vickie was NOT some fluffy airhead! Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace was not the only clearheaded, intelligent woman in the 19th century. In fact, the 19th century was crawling with intelligent women who got their way and did as they pleased (they just let the men think it was all their idea), and the one on the throne was the first and formost of them.

  14. Ellie says:

    As always this instalment was well worth the wait! Very much looking forward to part 3. As for the line ‘you should add a thinking button’, oh please please please please! A intelligent self aware difference engine is a steampunk dream… although possibly not in keeping with what you’re doing aptly in 2D goggles so I shall hold my peace :)
    Also many congrats on the museum exhibition – I’m in the area so I’m definitely going to go along to see it in October! (that and it has an amazing collection of scientific equipment, astrolabes, moon maps, telescopes, sextants, scales and microscopes and (since the building used to house the chemistry department)some fascinating pieces of glassware used for many and varied chemistry experiments.

  15. Richard says:

    I love the History of Science museum up and down. John Dee’s Holy Table alone is worth the price of admission. I’m gutted that I won’t be able to get to this show.

    …and thanks, again, for keeping going with the comic. I’m intrigued that you’re experimenting with different drawing styles at different scales (a la Tank Girl) and just plain love the tink tink tink panel. Bravo.

  16. Anon, a Mouse says:

    The innocent wide-eyed gaze of Queen Victoria may be round, wide-eyed and innocent… but not stupid. Similar, yes. It’s dangerous confuse the two.

    “It does this all the time!”
    “It never does this!”
    “…just don’t tell the cheese story.”

    I’m having flashbacks to the studio earlier today. This episode is HILARIOUS! Thanks also for the link to the Museum of the History of Science.

  17. Greg Lloyd says:

    Very close to a story told to me by a very senior IBM’er – a former project manager for STRETCH.

    In the early 1950′s Thomas J. Watson Jr – successor and son of IBM’s founder – was touring Watson labs. Dick M described it as a “royal progress” with TJ Jr accompanied with one representative from every IBM management level between TJ Jr and the IBMer engineers and scientists who had a song and dance to perform on the tour.

    Dick was mid-level engineer working on magnetic core storage technology – at the time a big step up from delay line and electrostatic Williams tubes. Little magnetic cores were woven into a two dimensional grid of wires so that by pulsing current through selected wires along the X and Y axes the magnetic moment of the tiny doughnut shaped magnets X/Y intersection could be flipped from one state to another or read. This technology greatly improved the speed, cost and capacity of computer memories (and lasted until semiconductor technology became cost effective).

    Dick’s boss – the project lead – had a core memory plane lying flat on the a lab bench connected to an experimental computer and other equipment. The boss gave something like the simple explanation above to TJ Jr and his entourage when they arrived at that station of the lab tour.

    TJ Jr listened thoughtfully, leaned over the magnetic core array on the bench and said “I don’t see anything flipping”.

    TJ’s COO nudged the group VP, who nudged the VP of Research, who nudged the Watson Labs Director, who nudged the Lab Advanced Technology lead, who nudged Dick’s boss, who nudged Dick.

    Who got to explain to TJ Jr that the cores were tiny magnets and that the orientation of the *magnetic field* of the magnets was being flipped by the current, not the physical orientation of the tiny doughnuts.

    TJ Jr nodded sagely and move to the next station of the lab tour.

  18. sydney says:

    DU- the delta gag is Babbage’s- can’t claim credit! You’ll find it the top link, about the annoying quesitons.

    Nick- The science museum here in London has, or at least had, a biggish publication of technical documents, but it was really expensive.. as I understand it, Babbage’s fluctuating designs never reached a complete enough stage to build a whole machine. I do want to send a tshirt to the mechano guy though for the amaaazing mockup he did of the barrels: http://www.meccano.us/analytical_engine/index.html
    You beat me to the punch with the fourmilab link- there’s loads of good stuff there.

    Ted- agree about the font.. bad for the pacing

    Magdalena- dang, I thought I’d cleared up why Minion was naked by giving him a towel… he was in the bath. Part of the Babbage-forgot-to-tell-anyone about the visit gag. Originally I had Wellington actually on his horse, but a)it was too hard to stage it that way and b) it felt uncomfortably like he was seated in the presence of the Queen. But he still can’t go anywhere without the horse.

    Tim, Smallpotato- listen to the Mouse!

  19. J says:

    I must confess, the little four-panel gag about Lovelace’s wild experimentations had me in stitches.

  20. John says:

    Heh. I took the time to read the Cheese Story. It reminds me a bit of period horror stories (Fitz-James O’Brien, for one). But with cheese. And the fact that it’s all a setup for a math problem.

    Now I must know if the Queen or the horse resolves the riddle before Babbage gets to the end of the recounting.

  21. Sung says:

    I love this. Are you thinking about publishing sometime in the future? I’d love to see antics of Babbage and Lovelace in book form.

  22. Ah, you have found M. François Carquillat’s silk portrait of Jacquard, woven on the Jacquard loom– Babbage owned a copy.

    But are you aware of the Jacquard Jacquard Jacquard? It’s even more recursive! Here’s a picture. That Carquillat was a stitch.

    (As far as I know, Babbage didn’t own this Jacquard Jacquard Jacquard.)

    Some time ago I found a trove of information on the Jacquard loom, which might serve as interesting reference material for you.

    I once was contacted by a gent in Montana who owns a copy of the Jacquard Jacquard. I answered some of his questions, and he was kind enough to send me photocopies of the front and back of the picture. It is extremely high resolution. I shudder to imagine the size of the deck of cards used to generate it.

  23. Say, are you aware of Bob Godfrey’s 1975 musical animated biography of Brunel, “Great?” It won an Oscar and a BAFTA award.

    It was practically unobtainable for years, but I just searched for it and found that it’s now on Youtube. Thanks to Amid Amidi at Cartoon Brew for pointing this out.

    http://www.cartoonbrew.com/classic/bob-godfreys-great-1975.html

  24. TuringTest says:

    Heh! I think nobody’s mentioned the hilarious “not a bug, it’s a feature” line yet. You’ve been socializing with programmers, ain’t you? I’ve never seen it so elegantly put before. I think I’ll use this line “one of the most ingenious *features*” sometime with my own clients. (“Fail-safe jamming mechanism”! That’s pure gold!).

  25. TuringTest says:

    And the face of Babbage when Lovelace says “Let us move on to the demonstration!” Lovely!

  26. Ed Falk says:

    I once had a debugging crowbar. My inspiration was a story by Stanislov Lem, in which he talked about an ancestor who thought you could beat computers into submission. He claimed that he never sat down to program without a crowbar handy.

    After reading that, I went to Sears, bought the biggest crowbar they had, then took it to the gift department and had it engraved “Official IBM Debugging Tool” and kept it by my desk.

  27. The characters design have a slight resemblance of the disney style. I like your characters expression as well.

  28. John LeMaitre says:

    I really dig your comic! It is now my favorite, having surpassed “Ambush Bug”.

    And you DO know the geek in me; one of my first questions upon reading this comic was, “WHAT is that FONT?!?!?” Thanks!

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