Lovelace and Babbage vs The Organist, Part 7

This entry is part 7 of 12 in the series The Organist

I have dragged myself up from the floor, and with quivering pen have managed to scratch out the following almost-illegible CRY FOR HELP. The Organist! Part 7! AKA, Act II part 1, because I totally have this whole thing planned out. Really!

A heaping’ spoonful of NOTES:

All the concertina primary documents I KNOW you are craving! Patents! Price lists! Evil plans! I’m still finding Wheatstone a bit slippery as a character.. I’m going for a Bunsen Honeydew/Werner Von Braun thing at the moment. Speak to me, Wheatstone! What’s it all about?

— I have to record in these notes, the uncomfortable fact that Charles Babbage did die under torture, of a sort– his mortal enemies the street musicians played continually under the window of his death-bed room, while his poor son unavailingly begged them to stop. Evil of this variety does not thrive in the Pocket Universe I’m happy to say.

— After that, I’m sure we would all be cheered up by a Wurlitzer rising up out of the ground:


“The Organist” was going to be a wee short cute episode, until the Helpful Bryce (who himself openly admits to studing the organ!) sent me a missive alerting me to the existence of a turn-of-the-20th century, 200-ton electric organ that broadcast over the telephone wires. What is a girl to do with this information? I ASK YOU? Hence, this monstrous epic that you see unfolding before you.

Scientific American on the Telharmonium.

A Telharmonium documentary, if you have 20 minutes or so. Part 2. Featuring Mark Twain: ” The trouble about these beautiful, novel things is that they interfere so with one’s arrangements. Every time I see or hear a new wonder like this I have to postpone my death right off. I couldn’t possibly leave the world until I have heard this again and again.” Sadly there is no recording of the no doubt celestial harmonies of the Telharmonium, I am informed it would resemble a Hammond Organ:

The Telharmonium proper is too electronic for this comic, though it does feature pleasantly steampunky cogs (and overalls! and child labour!):

What with this high technology of telephone wires and paper cones, and I was highly concerned that this is edging out of what may properly be considered the technological scope of this comic until I found:

Music By Telegraph! Yankee Doodle, carried by lightning! The Tele-orchestri-phono-blater-ion thus can theoretically be brought back to the 1860s, give or take. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, this notion led to the Harmonic Telegraph, which led to the Telephone.

— On the properly period front, here’s a lovely Orchestrion for you. Put it on a loop and crank the volume!

Oh what the heck, here’s another. You know you want more!

You’ll get a new one every episode now. Collect them all!

The Correspondents have absolutely nothing to do with this comic. This Shadowy Kingpin does bear a striking resemblance to The Organist, but I’m sure he is PERFECTLY INNOCENT:

Let us hope the Organist’s plan does not succeed and fill London with such MUSIC! Because that would be TERRIBLE!!

As usual, no eta’s for the next episode, but now I have been Flung Out Into The Streets* I have little more time for these Frivolities, in between the health-giving country-pub walks I intend to do as soon as it stops raining. Comments are always welcomed, I know I’m ponderously slow at responding but I really do love getting them!

*don’t worry I am routinely Flung Out at the end of movie, and tend to find myself Flung Back In Again in fairly short order, which is why my hair is always such a mess.

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  1. Brian Arthur Boon on November 13, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    you do a very fine of portraying that blaterating snollygoster Babbage, and his poor jobler Lovelace; one has become quite amorevolous of her. Do keep up the fine work.

    Yours (&c)


  2. Anon, a Mouse on November 9, 2010 at 4:09 am

    BRITANNIA, PRIDE OF THE OCEAN (sing it with me now), HOME OF THE… wait a minute. This is awfully similar to Columbia, Gem of the Ocean…

    “You’ll like this, it has buttons.”


  3. Peter Spicer-Wensley on October 13, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Ms Padua, you are awesome and your artwork and storytelling is brilliant. I am in nerdly steam punk bliss with each cherished episode. I DO want the cog belt. FTW! Thank you for your hard work and the thought craft art and research that obviously goes into each episode. The notes that follow the comic are very entertaining and illuminating. Oh and etsy would be a good place to find someone capable of making and supplying Ada Lovelace Cog Belts. “As worn by Baroness Ada Lovelace”. Please say you have a range of Tshirts coffee mugs and other fan-fodder so that we may worship you with our cash.
    With kindest regards,
    Peter Spicer-Wensley Esq.

  4. Anna Martin on October 12, 2010 at 12:52 am

    Are you going to do the life of Dionysius Lardner next? (see my website for material.)

    • Sharla on June 8, 2011 at 7:02 am

      I don’t know about any particular sales site; but I do want one of those belts.

      Also, I’m a big fan and am inflicting a link to the comic on everyone I know.

  5. nekokami on October 5, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Cog buckles could be sold through Shapeways: Just sayin’. :D

  6. ajay on October 5, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Ms Padua, conscious as I am of your interest in the affairs of Mr Babbage, Miss Lovelace and their Extraordinary Mechanical Thinking Engine, may I venture to hope that the article appended below should prove to be of some passing interest?

    According to Graham-Cumming, the time has now arrived to build the Analytical Engine and make Babbage’s steampunk dreams a reality. Graham-Cumming writes on his blog:

    I say that it’s time Britain built the Analytical Engine. After the wonderful reconstruction of the Difference Engine we need to finish Babbage’s dream of a steam-powered, general-purpose computer…
    What a marvel it would be to stand before this giant metal machine, powered by a steam engine, and running programs fed to it on a reel of punched cards.

    What a marvel indeed!

  7. MadRat on October 3, 2010 at 7:15 am

    The YouTube videos in the commentary remind me of The Organ Grinder in Portland, Oregon. The Organ Grinder was a pizza restaurant in the 1980s with a full Wurlitzer organ, with all the parts visible, a video arcade, silent movies set to live organ music… it was every big as awesome as it sounds. The commercial doesn’t do it justice. But just like all good things it passed on and is now just an odd shaped building.

  8. Ken on October 1, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    “‘That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun…”

  9. Ray Girvan on September 24, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Lovely, as usual. Though I confess the whole juxtaposition is reminding me of the Excessive Machine from Barbarella ( ). Hmmm … Babbarella?

  10. Octane on September 23, 2010 at 4:51 am

    Buttons? Egads!

  11. segfault on September 21, 2010 at 11:05 am


  12. Mary Ellen on September 14, 2010 at 1:09 am

    As promised, I must comment some more — the adventure becomes increasingly thrilling! Poor Babbage! Save him, Lady Ada, before he blows a main gasket! Or before the Organist forces him to collaborate, or locks him in the infernal machine’s interior to keep him out of circulation. (I know that big pipe organs have plenty of room inside for maintenance, etc. so I assume the Tele-Monstro-Symphono-Cacophonium does too.)

    Said machine is remarkably sinister looking, I must say! As for IKB’s participation – – can it be TRUE?! Would this fit into his Vision for the Progress of Science ?? Or is he (say it isn’t so) the Von Braunish kinda guy who just loves engineering so much that there’s no Big Project he won’t work on?? O dear, o dear.

    The art and the flow and the research and the concepts (how I love and envy all your contraptioney connections and gadgets and stuff) and the expressions and little asides (“Oh, go on” murmurs Wheatstone modestly) are all wonderful, Sydney. Plus, you make me look stuff up, which improves my mind.

  13. crism on September 13, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    Oh, dear… Charles Wheatstone invented the English concertina, but the character in the comic strip is clearly, from the wrist-straps, playing an Anglo (or Anglo-German) concertina. Wheatstone’s English concertina is an ergonomic nightmare, with tiny thumbstraps and a plate on which to rest the pinkie fingers.

  14. Ed on September 13, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Splendid work, do keep it up!

    Have just ordered two IKB mugs, one for a friend who drives trains on the Cornwall Railway to Penzance, across the Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash.

    Whilst checking that I’d got the bridge name right, and so on, I came across this quote:

    “In an evil moment he [Brunel] was tempted to raise up a monument to his engineering ability that should astonish the world” Mr Smith – Chairman of the Cornwall Railway

    Which seems to fit nicely with your cartoon portrayal of him.

  15. mark v thomas on September 12, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Re: The Last Post
    Ismbard Kingdom Brunel of course, hence Babbage’s “Betrayed By All” comment/outburst… (Cue Maniacal Laughter…).

  16. Lance on September 12, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    This just keeps getting better :-) Love the cog belt-buckle! Thanks, as ever, for taking the time and effort to produce such a fantastic comic.

  17. seanf on September 12, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Another great episode! But who’s IKB?

    Oh, right. Mustn’t complain about how long ago the last episode was…

  18. douglas442 on September 11, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Sydney! You’re back! And with a Shining New Episode! Many thanks!!

    … honestly… I was beginning to worry that they wouldn’t let you resume your work on this before Bill Murray gets too old to play the role of Babbage in the movie adaptation!

    I’m definitely looking forward to the day when you are no longer at the mercy of being flung about by the studios… except for the one you can call your own!

  19. insomniac on September 11, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    a new installment!!!

    totally worth having “Teleorchestriphonoblasterion ” running through my head to the tune of “irish Washerwoman”!

  20. Kitteh on September 10, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    It’s long past time I told you how much I love this comic and all the associated diversions, but I’ve been afraid any comment which adequately conveys my admiration and enjoyment would sound way too enthusiastically Creepy Internet Stalkerish. And, since my goal in expressing my appreciation would be to make you feel happy and motivated to do lots more of these lots faster, rather than frightened of nutbags and likely to waste your time seeking restraining orders and police protection, I have kept prudently silent. But now it appears more like mere cowardice on my part to deprive you of well deserved kudos, so here goes: I love Babbage and Lovelace and hope you draw these forever. You’ve made innumerable days at work so much better for me, I’ve learned a great number of fun and entertaining things; and, thanks to your amazingly expressive drawings, I appear to have developed a serious crush on IKB (that segment in the coffee shop last episode was pricelessly hilarious). You totally rock. So there. Now, go forth and rock on!

  21. Owen Fleet on September 10, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    A much needed shot in the arm of sublime brilliance :)

  22. Ken on September 10, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Don’t think you can really go wrong with Bunsen Honeydew.

  23. fvngvs on September 10, 2010 at 8:31 am

    The “Do you expect me to talk?” scene even has a TASER – Tuba Amplification…[snerk]

    I could swear I heard JS Bach as the soundtrack for the raising of the Tele-lots-ion…[oooh]

    Lady Lovelace in her crime fighting gear. That looks like a furled umbrella on the left hip and an extremely large tobacco pouch on the right hip. That’s one seriously tooled-up peer of the realm. [swoons]

  24. Ceridwen on September 10, 2010 at 5:07 am

    Yes, the Shadowy Kingpin does bear a striking resemblance to The Organist but I’m not so sure The Organist is innocent.

    I may have mentioned this before. If so, chalk it up to age or schoolwork or something…

    There was a great little restaurant in Torrance, California thirty-some-odd years ago called, ‘Yesterday’s.’ It had a great collection of old automated instruments like electric violins, player pianos and other coin-operated music-makers. They all worked and customers fed them nickles to keep them playing. At least they were automated well enough that they didn’t all play at once. It was something to eat in there. I don’t know why it went out of business but I think, at some point later on, it did service as a DMV annex.

  25. Janeinane on September 10, 2010 at 2:10 am


    Can’t decide what I liked best.. The IKB logo or Ada’s cog belt.

  26. John on September 10, 2010 at 1:52 am

    I found myself humming a melody I couldn’t quite place when I read Wheatstone’s panel, and I’m horribly embarrassed that I didn’t recognize it until I saw your von Braun link sitting there. A Tom Lehrer fan, too. Just…wow.

    So, why is there no Tele-orchestri-phono-blater-ion in the Zazzle store? Blaming it on the passage of an army of monkeys? I totally need one for the living room, so hurry up.

  27. Nimrod1943 on September 10, 2010 at 1:50 am

    OOOOOOH Part 7!!!!!!! It’s fantastic/swanky/brilliant! Oooh, and I love how you put so much research into each part, like the Teleharmonium! For that, yes, I thought you made it up. I shall eagerly await the next part…. :)

  28. Morris on September 9, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Love the comic, but the nitpicky compulsive proofreader inside me keeps shouting “WHEASTONE??” “WHEASTONE?!?!?”.
    (Just before the tele-orchestri-thingy rises from the deeps: “Thank you, Wheastone, for that great opening act”)

  29. skauthen on September 9, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Thank you for saving me from dying of boredom in this ACTUAL history class – in which I am now sitting.

    More feedback later |: )

  30. The Gneech on September 9, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Oooh, pre-war Scientific American! Mighty sweet. :) Thanks for the link!

    -The Gneech

  31. Tealin on September 9, 2010 at 8:03 pm


    (I may post a more articulate reply after I’ve read this a couple dozen times)

  32. Bewitched on September 9, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    I cannot help to hear Theremins ululating in the soundtrack to this episode… Wouldn’t be lovely if you indulge a little in anachronisms?

  33. Wikkid X on September 9, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    This is genuinely the best webcomic (heck, the best comic!) I have ever come across. It makes me both look like this emoticon :-O and (if you will excuse the terribly vulgar newfangled expression) lol. It’s so, so incredibly well drawn, well written and well researched, I feel like I know Babbage personally; I want to give him a great big hug. Tip of the hat to you!

  34. janie condie on September 9, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Hahaha! That was totally worth the wait – each panel better than the last. I loved the IKB reference – I enjoy your representation of Brunel almost as much as I do Lovelace. And the Teleorchestriphonoblasterion – did I imagine it or does it have eyes? Looking forward to the next instalment but no pressure – the anticipation is part of the fun.

  35. Professor_Briar2 on September 9, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Can’t stop the music, or was it can’t stop dancing …or something like that. And to top it all off, Ada has a new pipe!

  36. Mary Ellen on September 9, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Wonderful, fabulous, monstrous! More comment later! Gotta say that though I can’t tell if you’re consciously riffing here on Our Modern Plague of Total Information Overload with the Telebeastiatherioharmonium blasting all London whether everyone wants it or not – but I bet you are.

  37. Sara Davis on September 9, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Just when my day was feeling a bit icky, I find THIS!!!
    Thank you.

    Loving it.
    I miss Brunel, but am glad he showed up in reference.
    I love the shadowy kingpin. Charming evil doers, who can resist them?

  38. Emma on September 9, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Me ‘yay more Lovelace and Babbage’
    CJ (not quite 3) ‘no monsters’

  39. Timmy on September 9, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I just wanted you to know that I love everything about these comics.

  40. Kaaz on September 9, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    SQUEEE!! Oh! Oh! Oh! So much FUN! I loved the IKB logo (reminds me of something….! ;-) Loved panel 8 – wonderful composition! Loved Babbage’s “Betrayed” face! Loved the last panel! Lovelace to the rescue!!!!

    I cannot WAIT until the next episode!!!! (No pressure…)

  41. Nick Johnson on September 9, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Marvelous! I read the titles, and can’t help thinking of the one of the narrator’s voices from Girl Genius Radio Theater (after the intro):

    I think this would make a marvelous radio play. The tone of the whole thing is perfect.

  42. Louise on September 9, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Yay! A new episode. I’ve been loving these comics since the start. The last panel Ada is excellent — if the music won’t come to the Lady, the Lady must go to the music!

  43. gwern on September 9, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    ‘disippated’ arrgh