The Cruel Sea



waaaait for it.. pics and the lowdown tomorrow! Back to webcomics soon! Yaaaay!

This Comic, Swallow You Whole


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..


Ada Lovelace Day 2013!


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.

It was a hundred years before anyone applied logic practically, that was Claude Shannon by the way. (also by the way you should read James Gleick’s The Information)

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?


Edinburgh Fringe!


Heeeey folks it’s your friendly neighbourhood masked cartoonist, still drawing feverishly on The Book, swinging by to remind you all of Lovelace and Babbage vs The Organist THE LIVE STAGE SHOW EXPERIENCE, all this week at the Edinburgh Fringe! Reviews are out, FOUR STARS! and I must say they seem to have captured the comic perfectly! 

This play was an odd mixture of being so intellectual that nobody got the jokes, and so ridiculous that it made us laugh any way.

Ahahaha I’m SO EXCITED I can’t even tell you, up in Edinburgh myself this weekend to check it out, it will be EPIC!! Bring your footnotes!

While I’m here, a little interview with me on a charming website on London artists.

Ugh I’m so so sorry for the lack of comics here, hang in there!


3D Goggles!

Sorry for the silence, good peoples.. I’m wading with Grim Purpose through the mires of book-making.

I’ve always had a hard time drawing Babbage on-model, so I finally made a maquette!

Some process (I’m using SuperSculpy, for the interested):

PROTIP: When sculpting a maquette, FIRST affix the armature to a stand, THEN start sculpting! Because it’s bloody hard to hammer it down afterwards without smooshing your poor mini-Babbage. This is what happens when you launch haphazardly into a project without fully considering the endgame or consequences, which is how I found myself writing a book, so let that be a Dreadful Warning.

Other signs that it may be time to reflect on where one is in life and how one wound up in this strange place is when you find yourself making little loo-roll cravats eeeeeee!

(at this point my husband walked into the room and then slowly backed out again)

Doesn’t he look DASHING?

I think I need something sturdier for the jacket, maybe kitchen roll?

There IS a reason for this, and it’s a GOOD reason too– back in The Day, when we used to animate on paper with marks made with burnt sticks in a cave somewhere, we would get issued with maquettes to keep the drawing consistent and to be able to draw difficult angles. Thinking of this just made me dig through my giant ancient box of 2d animation junk..

Gosh here’s a piece of animation history for you– some photos of the rough maquettes for The Iron Giant, by Carla Fallberg (no I didn’t get to keep the maquettes themselves, SADNESS):

So now we can solve the burning mystery of: what does Babbage look like from 3/4s top?


ADDENDUM:  Just another practical tip: it’s good to take a photo and then draw over it to check if it looks like the character.. I think he’s pretty close!

More Punchycards

A couple of weeks ago I made a quick impromptu trip up to the town of Macclesfield, just south of Manchester. I went to see this:


Now that’s an actual punchycard room! It’s the Paradise Silk Mills, which is more than worth a visit, if you’re nearby (call first though, their opening hours are brief). Those are some of the 26 beautiful Jacquard looms, they worked away there for a hundred years up until the 1930s.  They all still work, though very slowly- a couple of inches a day! Because it’s hard to get someone to stand and push them back and forth these days.. More punchcards, this is an all-automatic modernish one:

(you can see a mechanical card one working here, which is pretty speedy, but nowadays they’ve done away with the cards all together, and go straight from the computer, they go like the very Dickens)

I was almost as fascinated by the machines used to punch the cards as the looms themselves- this marvellous thing is a ‘piano-type’ puncher. The treadle moves the card forward and you read the pattern of the sheet, and use the keyboard to punch it in, one line at a time. The spacing of the holes is called the ‘pitch’, you can ‘tune’ the puncher to the ‘pitch’ of the particular looms, this one is tuned to Macclesfield pitch of course:


They also had this fancy thing for lacing together the cards!

In the mill itself, there was a separate room for the designer and the puncher, with skylights, lovely space– you can see the piano punch in the background:

There were no cats! But it was impossible not to imagine Lovelace in her own elegant skylit programming room, up there at the very top of the engine… Of course she would need something much more elaborate! The stops are all her shortcuts naturally.




A brief interview with one of our Stars from User Experience.

Lets face it I just like drawing cats…

Some real punchycards!

I’ll tell you all about them in a few days..

Hope you all enjoyed User Experience– but enjoy it fast! As I’ll be pulling it offline in ONE WEEK! I need to preserve an Air of Mystery for the Book!

Happy Valentines Day!

Late but in earnest as always.. a Babbage Valentine to complete the set with Lovelace and Brunel from last year.

I can’t look into his eyes for too long, it gets unnerving..

Many thanks to @Suitov for the tagline, who won a short sharp twitter battle for comedy supremacy against many worthy opponents. Me I couldn’t get past the probably historically accurate but unromantic “Valentine, I love you more than I love my Difference Engine. HAHAHA of course not! But you are very nice.”

Lots more User Experience more shortly than you can possibly imagine..

150 Years of the Underground vs the Mole Folk

Happy 150th Birthday London Underground! You great heaving wonderful signal-failuring engineering-worksing glorious mess you!

For the occasion they ran a steam engine along part of the Hammersmith and City line and I got to go! Not, as you might think, in deference to my Victorian engineering comics fame, but on account of I won the lottery draw for a chance to pay a ton of money.

View from inside the carriage!

Should you happen to be in the teeming metropolis of London this coming Sunday- the 20th of January– you can watch the final journey along the Hammersmith and City line. It’s pretty magical! Some great tips on the timetables and best views at the indispensable IanVisits. (from my perspective in the train, Barbican and even Kings Cross were pretty empty on the flyby just after 10pm).

Naturally I did some sketches FROM LIFE (sketches not from life)

Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Under-London-tunnel-and-railway expert, died too young to have a hand in the Underground in our universe, which just goes too show you what a sad, mole-folk-less desolate place universe our is. Sigh. However, it did make much use of his father Marc Brunel’s innovative tunnelling shield. The design of the shield, by the way, was inspired by the tunnelling shell-mouths of the mole-folk’s electrified-battle-worms shipworm (warning: links to picture of a shipworm), which I see from that article is inspiring further bio-imitative technology. But I digress.

Unlike the simple Salamander People, the sophisticated Mole Folk have mastered electricity and telepathy (gained from ingesting the mysterious products of their Marmite mines); they’re such formidable opponents that it’s a good thing the conflict seems to have been resolved peaceably, as I surmise from this Historical Document:

A miscellany of links for the occasion:


Lots of great shots at the London Transport Museum’s Flickr

A Very Very Verbose Visit to the Underground, courtesy of the always excellent Cat’s Meat Shop.

Then, again, look at the Metropolitan Railway. With what ease and rapidity can the denizens of this vast and thickly-populated city traverse its enormous area! Is it not a wonderful and awe-inspiring fact that man in the nineteenth century can be thus transported from – yes, from the Edgeware Road to Farringdon Street in twelve minutes for sixpence?’
‘Certainly,’ said I; ‘and I have heard that the first-class carriages are very comfortable, and the smell arising from the steam has been much exaggerated.’
‘You have heard!’ exclaimed my neighbour, with some astonishment. ‘Am I, then, to understalnd that my young friend has allowed so many weeks to elapse without examining this last achievement of engineering skill?’

Here’s a great piece of history all dressed up in the finest polysyllabic prose– A Twenty Minute’s Letter To The Citizens of London, In Favour of the Metropolitan Railway and City Station. By your faithful correspondent the worthy Charles Pearson, a pitch for selling shares for this crazy idea of an underground railway, not an easy thing to do after the dot-com style railway bubble of the 1840s- “that maniacal period of speculation”, as he terms it. What could possibly be more Victorian than this passage-

The City of London is inhabited by a more crowded and active population, better able and more willing to pay for Railroad accommodation, than any other locality in the world. The organs of public opinion– the columns of the daily press– record, what our own personal observation proves, that the moving masses in our public thoroughfares are most seriously obstructed by the carriages and carts which throng our streets, and are daily increasing with the daily increasing population, commerce, and wealth of the City and the surrounding districts. The decennial census, and the reports of the officers of health and of the visting clergy in the City, record the fact that our courts and alleys are crowded with a stagnant mass of human beings of the lowest class, intermingled with the families of respectable working men, who have the mans and disposition to migrate, like their masters, if they had facilities wich a Railroad would afford them, and to live with their families in the country, a few miles from the locality of their occupation.

Anyways, we return triumphant to User Experience shortly, with a whole heap of pages for you.. I couldn’t get used to the rhythm of doing one page at a time, the comic seems to want to erupt all at once in ill-regulated explosive intervals, like the capricious volcano-god of the Salamander People. What can I do!

Happy Holidays!

Click for full size!

Shamelessly ripped off of the First Christmas card, 1843:



Brunel connection! The guy who drew the card, John Horsley, was Brunel’s brother-in-law and close friend. He painted several portraits of him, this is the most Christmasy one on account of the red cheeks (of which Horsley seems to have been rather over-fond)

Babbage connection: the business brain behind the Christmas Card, Henry Cole, worked with Rowland Hill on the introduction of the Penny Post, of which Babbage claims to have been the inspirer (though historians of the postal variety dispute this).

Lovelace connection: None found. :(

This has been quite the year here at 2dgoggles, over which the shadowy, colossal form of The Book towers like a.. big.. towering.. thing… plagued by myriad frustrations… and capped by the Great Hard Drive Apocalypse of November 2012 (FAIL, Mayans, off by a month!). Fear not OF COURSE I had multiple backups are you CRAZY? In any event we are BACK IN BUSINESS and 2013 shall be the Year of The Comics.

I leave you with a spirited Seasonal Tune! Wait for the carol which even Babbage might approve of! Well, tolerate… happy holidays everyone!

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