A Little More User Experience..

Aiming for Thursday for the next Vampire Poets but some more User Experience stuff just so you guys know I’m working like a fiend on this comic, a FIEND!

George costuming:

I had this crisis where I suddenly thought the Special Guest Star in User Experience ought to be Dickens, in honour of his birthday and also because obviously he was so much more marketable. Then I realised I was trying to decide which Victorian-novelist-lost-in-a-mechanical-computer scenario would make my MILLIONS and that’s when I gave myself a sharp smack. I’m much too fond of George now to replace her, and anyways Dickens will have a fine walk-on part.  Much more on User Experience in the coming weeks!

For the UX notes and also for more accurate gags and also because I don’t have enough projects in my life, I’ve started to put together an animating model of the Difference Engine-  right now it looks like this:

Ooooh Babbage you are so clever!

It’s not so mysterious when you actually move it around, but it’s a bit tricky to explain clearly so I’ll put together an explanatory vid when I have a sec!  If you need an explanation RIGHT NOW and are good at visualising, these invaluable and beautiful clear diagrams were my source, millions of thanks both to Mr Satyam and Dan in the comments who led me to them.

Stay tuned, loyal and kindly audience! I hope it’s a comfort that slow as the comics are coming at least you may rest assured that I am SUFFERING mightly:


A Little Background

Next Vampire Poets is coming up soonish, in the meantime I thought I might as well put up some of what I’m working on with User Experience, my other giant project (well, one of my other giant projects!).

I sketched up a quick little size compare of George and Ada and then I couldn’t stop.. click for bigger!

User Experience takes place almost entirely inside the Difference Engine, which is full of spiral staircases and gears with tons of teeth and complicated machinery all of which add up to that uninspiring word.. PERSPECTIVE.  I’d really like to bring up the standard of background drawing on the comic though and really didn’t want to do my usual squiggle-and-black shortcut. I’m pretty lazy when it comes down to it but also I just happen to work all day long on a thing created expressly for the purpose of producing three-dimensional simulacra of rigid complex objects.

So I fired up my very rusty modelling skills and started manufacturing.

At first I assumed I’d just arrange a set, print it out, and then trace it out in Painter, but that’s a heck of a lot of detail so I wondered if I could get away with what’s called a toon render- the upper cog is a toon render and the lower one is traced– click for bigger if you’re interested.

More as they’d be used in the comic:

At first glance the trace looks better– but a lot of that is because the models are cookie-cutters and simple shapes now. They would need to be wonkified and cartooned up. Also rusty as I am at modelling what I know about rendering and lighting can be summed up as, “send it down the pipeline to the rendering department, where I guess they push buttons and stuff”. If the models were done nicer and lit and rendered right, I think it could look pretty awesome, and I could get a lot more atmosphere and detail in. So at the moment I’m thinking of sticking with the renders and see if I can rope someone in to help me with the shaders.. I’ll keep you posted!

Of course the very extremely dangerous thought that snuck into my brain while building these bits is how actually not THAT hard it would be to model and sim a Difference Engine for reals…

Vampire Poets Part the Third

Happy 220th Birthday Charles Babbage!  I hope you enjoy your present, another amusing instalment of your Thrilling Adventures in…



Poetic Licences, the official stamp on the first panel, are required for poetry in the Pocket Universe; in our own so much more sensible universe, it is of course comic books.

- William Wordsworth seems the suitable person to be issuing the licences; not only was he Poet Laureate between  1843 and 1850 (during which he wrote no poetry at all), but he is also the traditional example of the post-Romantic authoritarian sell-out.

Babbage declared that he would have been a poet if he had been blind in this charming batch of anecdotes, also featuring Lovelace. The reporter fails to secure the vital information of why exactly Babbage would have had to be blind. I guess there’s some connection with Homer and Milton, blind super-genius poets, but super-genius Babbage’s logic escapes me on completing this syllogism.

The ‘Byron Devil’ is used to describe Lovelace possibly by Babbage in my favorite document that I never tire of linking to. It’s a bit ambiguous who uses the exact words oh please oh please oh please let it be Babbage!!

Indoor target practice was a habit of both Sherlock Holmes and Lord Byron, so it’s only natural to transfer it to Lovelace. Particularly as she possibly did own a pair of duelling pistols-

“Dear Babbage. I unfortunately forgot a very principal thing I had to say to you last eve, & that can be less well explained in writing. It is to ask you if you would be so very kind as to see a gentleman (one of the Leighs) on Tuesday next at 11 o’clock,- who wants to sell me, a Rifle & a pair of Pistols which he declares to have been my father’s.

History does not record whether she bought these! If you want to see them in action, there’s a fellow firing a similar one here; and they don’t go off backwards and blow his nose off even once!

– Did Charlotte Bronte and Ada Lovelace meet?  Can’t find anything definite but they brush past each other in notable celebrities of London here.

–P=NP is the most famous unsolved problem in Computer Science. There is an excellent elucidation of it in Wikipedia and also at MIT, with some amusing comments. 

That Thing Babbage did for the Post Office- Babbage claims for himself the concept of the Penny Post, where the mail is sent for the same price regardless of distance (making up the expense of travel in efficiency in processing), in his autobiography. It was Post-Master General (and at one point school-master to Babbage’s sons) Rowland Hill who actually implemented it, writing a pamphlet advocating for it in 1837.

If you’re keen on the subject, you may view the immediate effects of the penny post recorded by Mr Rowland Hill himself, in the papers of the Statistical Society.

Maybe I should work in more post-office stuff, but I feel I might be re-treading ground so excellently covered in Going Postal.  But I simply must find a place somewhere for the instructive verse at the bottom of this post by the postal museum!

Post-women can’t have been unheard of, as a search for the term turns up a lot of hits; I offer this seasonal treat, For the Post-Woman at Christmas.


Whew! Happy Charles Babbage Birthday everyone, hope you are all enjoying the best of the Season!


Vampire Poets – Part One!

Argh, sorry about the long delay folks, I’ve been out of town for a couple of weeks. But I am back! and so are Babbage and Lovelace! and so is… someone else..

My own poetic licence was revoked under circumstances too embarrassing to recount here, involving unwise use of mixed metaphors and exactly the wrong place to put an anapest.


I had some considerable anxiety over this episode because the Brontes kind of belong to Kate Beaton now, but Vampire Poets has always started for me with Emily Bronte breaking windows for Babbage’s chart, and that’s just how it had to be! Charlotte Bronte provides a description of her sister in the preface to the 1851 edition of Wuthering Heights; Emily did not in actuality accompany the other two sisters on their well-known visit to London, probably because this is just the sort of thing they were afraid would happen. She succumbed to Poetry at the age of 30. Complete poems here.

Babbage’s Report of Windows Crashes

I had some difficulty finding that chart, because it’s attributed in the Mechanics Magazine mysteriously to a ‘distinguished statistician’! I had to track it down in a roundabout way, via the Insurance Cyclopedia, which in itself I could only see the cover in in Google Books. Being published in 1878 it is just outside of Google Books possibly excessively cautious 1870 copyright cutoff in Europe. You see, without delving into the life history of its author Mr. Cornelius Walford, it cannot be 100% guaranteed that this 1878 book falls outside of life+70 years. Cornelius may have been a youthful 20-year-old firebrand, eager to make his name in the field of actuarial history, who pursued his craft until the age of 95! This however would have made him 10 years old on the publication of The Insurance Guide and Handbook on Fire, Life, Marine, Tontine, and Casualty Insurance, an unusually precocious age for an interest in actuarial theory. In the end no less a person than James Gleick was kind enough to send me a PDF of this inestimable volume with its entire chapter on the history of glass breakage insurance, so I’m delighted to have another chance to plug his excellent book with its very substantial section on Babbage and Lovelace.

Where was I? Statistics! Zoo animal food consumption and frequency of surname starting-letters are just some of the subjects on which the tireless Babbage wished to have accurate data. You can read about his project in On the Tables of Constants in Nature and Art.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel kept notebooks in little shelves in his hat; I don’t know if this was a standard thing but I would certainly expect it of Babbage!

Sorry again for the long wait, next one should come much brisker!

Vampire Poets, Prologue

This incoherent, fragmentary manuscript, plainly the work of a diseased mind, was discovered in a crypt, clutched in one skeletal hand of a corpse. We were unable to prise the glass of whiskey out of the other hand.

It’s Gothic! It’s Horrible! It’s a Gothic Horrible! IT’S VAMPIRE POETS!!!


Not a whole lot of notes I can give before fully introducing our Mysterious Stranger, some pertinent ones are appended to the related comic The Person From Porlock.

But I have to have SOME notes to maintain the balance of this Universe so please enjoy some awful Victorian poetry featuring our fearless protagonists (click on the verses for the full versions, if for some crazy reason you want to read them):

Babbage’s elaborate visions of a mechanistic universe sees him turn up here as a spectre of Determinism (not sure if Whewell belongs there though? Don’t know huge amounts about this guy but he doesn’t sound like a Determinist)

And some thoroughly enjoyable doggerel with Babbage in cuddlier calculator mode:

And finally, I can’t tell you how pleased I am to present this Ode To Lady Lovelace, whose agonizing awfulness will quite diminish by contrast the awfulness of my own verses:

For those who were sensibly doodling during their English classes

Dark Satanic Mills

That’s quite enough of THAT debauchery, I suggest we all cleanse ourselves by studying Babbage’s work on comparative methods of compiling actuarial tables.

EDITED TO ADD: Always I forget a note! “It was a dark and stormy night” is of course the immortal opening of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Paul Clifford. Bulwer-Lytton was a friend and neighbour of Lovelace’s, and she had a great admiration of his books, thus establishing the traditional geek love for awful doorstop pulp fiction. Maybe she was just waiting for him to get around to his proto-science fiction, but sadly she died before he wrote it.

Also– in reply to comments from the poster– the instruments Lovelace is using to ward of the Vampyre are a straightedge and a compass, the instruments with which she is accustomed to solving all known problems.

Plans, Schemes, Vague Ideations

I have several (too many!!) things in train, and in the spirit of full transparency, A Little List:

1. Print

For my own satisfaction I need to get the existing comics cleaned up and on paper in some way. Question: Should I do these in instalments, or do the whole opus at once? Bearing in mind that The Organist isn’t cleaned up and is 120 pages without notes

I quite like the idea of doing an Annual, a very Victorian concept.  I’d have to scramble like the very dickens to get even The Client out for the traditional Christmas Annual release, given that I’ve just today opened up my 30-day trial of In Design and I’m still trying to figure out how to get the pictures in. Would there be interest in something like that? with Fancy Typography? Or would you rather wait however long and get The Complete Lovelace and Babbage?

2. User Experience!

A few months ago, there was a Wild And Crazy Hack Day Weekend up at Agant iPad Wizard Labs, wherin I drawed and Dave Addey coded and other folks did other things… The Lovelace and Babbage App is the firstborn, but User Experience is the adorable mutant embryo product of that weekend. It’s a slooooooow gestation on that one but it IS pretty darn cool, so in spite of all reason I’m going to keep plugging away.

3. Lovelace and Babbage The Opera! The Breakfast Cereal! The Bafflingly Complex Mortgage Product!

Sundry and assorted Things, ranging in breadth of ambition from another tshirt, to the enchanting vision of a radio play, which I’m madly in love with. Should these notions become other than chimerical at any point I will keep you posted.

4. Freakin’ Comics Already!

Speaking of mediums, I read with great interest this piece by Warren Ellis, which pinged with some stuff that’s being on my mind what with the iPad app coming out and all. This in particular:

Also, it’s a hell of a lot easier to take your time telling a story when you’re not charging people.

…this is harder to make sense of, perhaps?  It may just be a weird personal tic masquerading as a concern, that is meaningless to everyone else?  But I always saw webcomics as the place where people could do huge, sprawling picaresques..

It may be a personal tic, but it’s one I share in my own small way. The real gift of this comic to me has been the way I can be an amateur – one who does out of love. It’s a very playful space here. I draw entirely to please myself, make jokes entirely to please myself.  So over and above all the Very Serious Plans outlined above, I think I need to go back to roots and just draw a freakin’ comic here.

2dgoggles began as a list of joke comics I still have on a piece of paper from March 2008, which is the comics that must naturally follow from the idea of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage fighting crime. The joke comics were:

- the Orgainst! (DONE!!)

- Sir Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Hat (does this count as done? I have drawn his hat!)

- Cyborg Napoleon! (I have a few sketches for this, it’s a lot of giant war machines which are very hard to draw)

- Vampire Poets

So, ladies and gentlemens, IN TWO WEEKS..

iPad App is Out!

At the fine iTunes Emporium!

If you could blog, tweet, whatever about it that would be GREAT!! IT’S ADA LOVELACE DAY PEOPLE!!!

In the meantime do please leave a review! Any feedback much appreciated!

An Authorial Aside


Aaaanyways one thing is certain folks and that is:

Lovelace and Babbage: The App!

Heigh ho, Loyal Readership!  As I drag my exhausted form over the desert wastes of the last three weeks of film production, a glimmer on the horizon.  Is it… a mirage?  Or could it be…

Lovelace and Babbage: The App!

You may recall my mentioning some time ago that these lovely mad folks were making an iPad app of the comic– well, we’ve been working like dogs, dogs I tell you and it’s nearly ready for release!

The first release is free, it’s ‘Lovelace The Origin’ that we all know and love and it looks awfully snazzy if I do say so myself! Screencap:

As well as The Origin (freeeee!!) we’ve included The Client (not free! we’re charging, I dunno, a pound or something, haven’t decided), which I’ve gone over and done a bunch of cleanup on, because man some of those drawings were gnarly. Why the Client? The Organist was too long and The Economy too hideous for the time I had available to clean up the drawing (i.e., none), so the Client it is!  The others will follow along presently.

It wouldn’t be 2dgoggles without the footnotes of course!!  Plenty of footnote action in there, revealed through the magic of iPad Rotate-O-Vision!!

The footnotes are way whizzy, they’ll have zoomable images and snazzy primary document embeds and the whole of Babbage’s autobiography is in there and they’ve worked super-hard on them over at Agant.  I think it looks fantastic.

All this magic will be up on the iTunes app store on October 7th for Ada Lovelace Day, so I hope at least a couple of you have iPads otherwise that’s a lot of weekends I could have slept in.  Alternately there may be people out there with iPads who haven’t read the comic, if such a thing is conceivable, so if you know such a person you might want to say, “I say!  You should download the Lovelace and Babbage app!”

For the Loom-Smashers

If you don’t have an iPad, fear not, Citizens!! Because now that I’ve spent all this time cleaning up The Client I’ve got all this nice cleanish artwork on my hands and at such times a young comic artist’s fancy lightly turns to thought of PRINT.  PRINT I TELL YOU!  I’ll tell you something about print thought:  it is a hella work.  They take whole forests and chop them down and mash them up and flatten them out and then your lousy comic is sprayed onto it with LASER BEAMS!  So it’s kind of an operation.  Will keep you posted on the whole print thing.

And if that’s not enough to worry about there’s also…

User Experience

Ripped from the headlines!  The latest dispatches from the WAR on ERROR!  When it’s not falling off my wall it looks like this:

And Finally…Rare Public Appearance By Recluse Author!

What with all this work and excitement I could sure use a dry martini, hence my appearance this coming Tuesday the Hendrick’s Lectures, where there will be Monster Hunters!  and Beautiful Clothes! and the fine fine Steampunk Bible! And if anyone wants me to deface their copy  I will be on hand.  It’s on Tuesday the 6th of September  at 11 Mare Street, E8 4RP in Fashionable Hoxton, doors open at 6 pm, show begins at 7pm.

Anyways a million apologies all for the long long wait between comics this time around.  I am well aware the The Mysterious Forces of the Universe have given me a great responsibility in this here comic; a responsibility my craven addiction to making a living has caused me to let down lately.  But much is happening below the surface and soon my mole army will burst out of the earth.  As it were. In the meantime hold tight.  Listen to the Goon Show or something.  Yehti!!!

A Short Ramble

In Times Such As These, sometimes there’s not much you can do but sit and draw comics.

I’m sorry for the recent radio silence– I’ve been pressed under the weight of Giant Monsters and every spare minute in the evenings I’ve been cleaning up some older stuff. Going over the early comics has had me thinking Deep Thoughts about character design and the shape of the comic and stuff, and for lack of actual comics here are some sketches and scattered thoughts– very disconnected I’m afraid I’m a bit short on sleep..

I’ve been trying to develop a visual language for this comic here and for stuff of this nature I confess I’m embarassingly fond of woo for someone about to make my debut in the Geek Calendar as Ms August! Brace yourselves for some woo-y talk about shapes.

The drawing above is a stab at getting a proper model of Babbage, however he always seems to be a little off-model every time I draw him and that is no exception. I think I haven’t quite nailed him in detail but I do have a very clear feel of his energy now I think (and by ‘he’ I mean the character in the comic!) Babbage is a very earth-and-fire sort of an element, stable, stubborn and explosive at the same time, which is pleasing on account of his fascination with volcanoes. It is VERY obliging of him to have in at least one photograph styled his hair in a shape so very suggestive of a cartoon flame, and even more obliging of the painfully pompous Lawrence portrait to inform me that he had reddish hair (‘he’ now being the actual person, this does get confusing..) When I pose him out I tend to draw a big block with some shapes either flickering or bursting out– very simple, straight, square and active.

Lovelace is also quite linear and active, but she has more complicated, twisted, unstable stuff roiling under the surface– I’m starting to look for more sinuous lines on her, diagonals and spirals; I’m experimenting with putting her in costumes that have more of that messiness, layers, and eccentricity to them, and I’m lucky that she had those big coils of black hair to play with. The real-life Lovelace loved flying machines and swimming and was nicknamed ‘The Bird’ in her family circle, which gives a great airy/watery contrast to Babbage’s earth and fire.

This works nicely with the hardware/software thing with the Engine, programming is a very ‘air’ skill to my mind and there is much to be made of the visual of the long tapes of punchcard winding and flowing through the rigid engine (much to be made, by someone with more time on their hands than myself at the moment!). The sketch above came out of some myth-y stuff I’ve been doing for User Experience. I talk a bit about how I use Orpheus to build The Organist here, User Experience I’m back to the useful Greeks and the obvious one for something set inside the Engine, which is Deadalus and his Labyrinth. With Labyrinths you get Ariadne and her thread winding through of course, but Lovelace also makes me think of Icarus, anyways that’s where that came from.

Something I found in a pile of doodles– I can’t clearly remember drawing this but you can see I’m looking at bringing the contrast in shapes into the hands here–

While I’m on the subject of woo, might as well put this Fact in here- Lovelace and Babbage were both born in December of Pig Year (the Year of the Pig is the very BEST year by the way), 24 years apart; Lovelace a Saggitarius and Babbage a Capricorn. I’m enchanted to see the Capricorn-Pig described as “The Merry Megalomaniac” while the Saggitarius-Pig is a wallower in shenanigans on the sly.  I’ll leave the compatibility/chart/influences of Saturn to the floor.

Well that’s possibly the most disconnected post I’ve put up here.. please bear with me only a couple of months of crunch to go and the I shall Devote Myself To My Art!

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