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.

 

 

Punchycards!

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:

Stamps!

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!

*Sigh*

Sorry folks, looks like I need a new hard drive… and just back from Ireland and off to Denmark straight away for a couple of weeks, for my Celebrated Lectures on Bovine Locomotion as Interpreted by the Animation Artist, It’s Attendant Joys and Sorrows. Should have the ol’ machine up and running by then though so this interruption shouldn’t go on too long! Life does interfere with comics so!

While I fiddle tiny screws and drop them under the sofa, please enjoy stunning super-duper hires images of the Magnificent Difference Engine, and some great video:

:(

Apologises, my friends whose little faith is amply justified! No page today I’m afraid, I’m over the sea in Ireland experiencing technical difficulties..

In recompense you shall get THREE pages on Friday, as they are already drawn and eager to be posted on my return. Well it wouldn’t be 2dgoggles without disruptions to the continuum I suppose.

A Panorama!

Just a cool thing I thought I ought to share!

If you’ve ever cast a glance at the ‘Donate’ button on the right yonder, you may have wondered if I spend the gratefully received monies on anything other than booze and dangerous men. I do indeed! I spend it additionally on my principle vice, OLD BOOKS. I love using collages in the comic and hence can justify this degrading habit by the fact that they are a most excellent source of images which once scanned are mine and the world’s.

I’m going to start posting some scans and I shall start with the piece-the-resistance, three months worth of t-shirt money peoples:

A PANORAMA OF LONDON 1849!

Under this demure cover these wonders await!

The whole DAMN THING:

Saw this at an antique shop a few months ago and my heart went piterpat.. eventually some evil whisper talked me into it! Enjoy, it is pretty dang epic! That’s the world of Lovelace and Babbage right there folks, two years before Lovelace died and only a few years after the she wrote the first published paper on computer science. Picture that!

A couple of other notices of interest:

The Ada Initiative, to support women in Open Source, is on the last couple of days of fundraising! I did a poster for them last year– Go and give them a hand, they have some limited edition Kate Beaton prints this year!

I have an extremely rambly interview at Sequential Tart.

Aaand Noted Author Nick Harkaway, penner of the fine touch-o-steampunk spies and clockwork romp Angelmaker, has a guest post by MOI at his Muse And Me tumblr.

Aaaaand that’s it for now! But prick up your ears folks, comics comics this week!

Ada Lovelace Day! With Special Guest Star Mary Somerville

Happy Ada Lovelace Day everyone! This is by way of being a national holiday here on 2dgoggles, as it roughly marks our inauguration– this quasi-comic was born three or so years ago (Ada Lovelace Day being a moveable feast) in celebration of and remembrance of Women in Technology.

Before I get to our guest star, some housekeep announcements..

— the image above is now a tshirt by popular (well, by one comment!) demand! Let me know how it goes, if you order this one, as being an impromptu effort I haven’t had a chance to test the tshirtness of this one.

— I get a fair few newcomers to the site for some reason today, so I’ll plug the handy-dandy all portable! all-navigable! Lovelace and Babbage iPad app, featuring Lovelace The Origin FREE! complete with my very best primary docs. A pretty good all-round introduction to Lovelace and Babbage and the engine, if I do say so myself, and so many footnotes it has reportedly taken some conscientious readers four hours to read an eight-page comic.

And without further ado.. our special guest star! Introduced by an ALL-NEW SNEAK PREVIEW from the Lovelace and Babbage book..


Mary Somerville, Lovelace’s mentor, and namesake of the first Oxford women’s college, is someone I’ve been wanting to work into the comic for ages, and the expanded Origin story in the book is an excellent place for her. She was the zen-calm Obi Wan to Lovelace’s impatient Luke, as it were.

*EDITED TO ADD: Lovelace’s dialogue above is excerpted from her actual letters, by the way, I can’t write stuff that comic-booky. Except for the last panel, which is Luke Skywalker. Except he wanted to learn the ways of the Force, not mathematics. Carry on.

Her books are then as now excellent thorough introductions to Victorian science, and her autobiography is full of interest. She’s particularly interesting on her clear-eyed recounting of what obstacles she faces in studying mathematics as a woman, which she only became liberated to do when she became widowed– the only common state in which a Victorian woman could control her own time and money, and buy her own books for instance.. her first husband, we learn, did not like her studying:

I was thirty-three years of age when I bought this excellent little library. I could hardly believe that I possessed such a treasure when I looked back on the day that I first saw the mysterious word “Algebra,” and the long course of years in which I had persevered almost without hope. It taught me never to despair. I had now the means, and pursued my studies with increased assiduity; concealment was no longer possible, nor was it attempted. I was considered eccentric and foolish, and my conduct was highly disapproved of by many, especially by some members of my own family, as will be seen hereafter. They expected me to entertain and keep a gay house for them, and in that they were disappointed. As I was quite independent, I did not care for their criticism.

She is of particular inspiration to those coming back to math, as a lot of women I’m talking to are, after a long absence. Prevented from her father and husband from studying as a girl, she took it up in her thirties, self-teaching herself entirely from books and almost entirely alone. Then she married a great guy and moved to Italy! Now there’s a role model.

And because it’s nice to make chains of these things, the cites some of her own inspirational women, including this geologist:

I also took lessons in mineralogy from Mrs. Lowry, a Jewess, the wife of an eminent line engraver, who had a large collection of minerals, and in the evening Somerville and I amused ourselves with our own, which were not numerous.

Some books to peruse on an idle hour:

Mechanism of the Heavens (1831)
The Connection of the Physical Sciences (1835)
Physical Geography (1850)
On Molecular and Microscopic Science (1869– when she was almost 90!)

Ada Lovelace Day 2012 Coming Soon!

Howdy folks! Just returned from a sojurn in the woods of the Great White North, where I laboured like the noble Canadian beaver on The Book. You’re doubtless sick of my hinting that there will be comics soon, so, I will remain as silent as the tundra under a blanket of fresh snow on a windless February… oh, patient ones! Believe how keenly I feel the lack of posts! Like an elk unsuccessful at the autumn rut without a single cow! Up where I was staying we have a truly horrendous collection of early-to-mid 20th century Canadian adventure stories for young people, can you tell?

I do have a couple of announcements however!

Ada Lovelace Day 2012, the institution to which we owe our genesis, falls upon OCTOBER 16 this year (it is a moveable feast)! I’ll be giving a little talk at the star-studded Ada Lovelace Day Live! where I’ll be sharing some of my favorite primary docs; it’ll be live-streamed and I’ll give a link closer to the day. So sharpen your keyboards and blog or tweet or merely reflect fondly on your favorite women in tech and sci! I’m also working up a poster of the above image for the Ada Lovelace Day fundraiser.

Speaking of, uh, speaking, I’ll be dropping into the Thinking Comics evening at Gosh on November 14th, where they’ll be discussing Lovelace and Babbage and Logicomix. Should be fun and I see they repair afterwards on occasion to the very appropriate John Snow pub.

That’s about it for the moment.. keep the RSS feed and go about your lives, citizens! One bright day a low rumble and the dam will burst! Or, um, be constructed. Mixed dam-building metaphors. Anyways! And don’t forget, when in Canada, keep your bear-spray inside your coat lest it freeze and be rendered useless against the wolves! Not making that up!

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