Lovelace and Babbage Vs The Organist! pt 1

This entry is part 1 of 12 in the series The Organist

The wisest and best of men- nay, the wisest and best of their actions, may be made ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke. Most unfortunately for Charles Babbage, I just so happen to be such a person.

On to The Organist Part 2


So, Charles Babbage, he hated musicians.

Man, I have so many primary documents to attest to this important historical fact, I don’t even know where to start. I could demonstrate its ubiquity in popular culture, with a page from a random novel in which a Babbage-vs-organ-grinder skirmish comes with the stock report as a typical Times news story. I could verify this with a “Babbage” search of the Times archive between 1855 and 1870 (you’ll have do DIY search, no permalink I’m afraid). Or maybe you’d like your notes in the form of dramatic verse? Or if you’re hardcore you could read the anti-street-music pamphlet by the most aptly named Mr MegaBass, “Street Music in the Metropolis”, featuring the immortal lines:

“… we could scarcely vote for inflicting on [Mr Babbage] the smallest punishment, if he were with his own hands to hang a street musician every day.”

Although that might be going a little far, basically the problem with street music could be summed up by this:

Fear not, upcoming episodes will feature extensive documentation of the legal, parliamentary, and popular-press coverage of Charles Babbage vs the street musicians.
The Encouragers of Street Music, and the Rude Patois by the way can be found, of course, in Babbage’s autobiography. The wires visible in the establishing shots are from Babbage’s vision of messaging zip-lines as described in his Economy of Machines and Manufactures:

“Perhaps if the steeples of churches, properly selected, were made use of, connecting them by a few intermediate stations with some great central building, as, for instance, with the top of St Paul’s; and if a similar apparatus were placed on the top of each steeple, with a man to work it during the day, it might be possible to diminish the expense of the two-penny post, and make deliveries every half hour over the greater part of the metropolis.”

Moving along…

The Harmonic Disruptor would TOTALLY WORK– I ran the idea past an actual acoustical engineer and he said ‘Sure it would’, and if you remove the irrelevant pitch information from the way he said it I’m going to take it as a full endorsement.   Destructive interference is why when you wear noise-cancelling headphones, your skull explodes. Man there’s so many great sciency claptrap words in acoustics! Of course the first thing you’re wondering if it would be able to produce a wave of sufficient pressure; if I had supplied further diagrams this would obviously not be an issue as the Disruptor is furnished with sympathetically vibrating grids. The reel-to-reel punchcard system I guess comes from the fact that I’m ancient obsolete mature enough to have edited my student films with tape on a movieola; the whole punchcard thing puts me irrestistibly in mind of our vanishing friend celluloid film.

Here’s a famous resonance disaster for you:

And finally: I’m sure someone in the comments can identify the very slightly modified lengthy equation for the elimination of C in Lovelace’s notes. First person gets.. uh.. the satisfaction of knowing obscure math jokes!

Millions of thanks by the way to everyone who comments. I know I’m not very good at prompt replies but I’m here for the glory warm fuzzies. And the jokes.

On to The Organist Part 2

Lovelace and Babbage Vs. The Organist Pt 2

This entry is part 2 of 12 in the series The Organist

Howdy Kids!

I drew a special comic last week for the upcoming The Story conference, the theme of which was Wilkie Collins’ famous motto, “Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry.. and make ‘em wait.” I have the last part NAILED!

Without further ado! ANGST!!! DRAMA!!!!! CHARTS!!!!!!!!

On to The Organist Part 3


Quasiamicable Pair. Man I get so many gags from Wolfram Alpha..

– I am extremely excited to introduce Adolphe Quetelet to this comic. A man after Babbage’s own heart, he began like Babbage in the field of Life Insurance, before expanding his interests to Crime-Fighting. No, really! Although Quetelet lived in Brussels two such twinned souls were bound to be aware of each other and they show up together in plenty of documents. Babbage credits Quetelet with inspiring him to form the Statistical Society, which is I suppose what Quetelet refers to when he schoolgirlishly squees over Babbage’s ‘gigantic plan’ to compile statistics on, uh, EVERYTHING. It was to Quetelet that Babbage seems to have made his first official announcement of his plans for the Analytical Engine, in 1835– although, he must have been talking about it to Lovelace earlier than that, as possibly the first written reference to punchcard computing would be from a letter she wrote when she was still Ada Byron in 1833, when looking upon the Jaquard Loom: “This Machinery reminds me of Babbage and his gem of all mechanism.”

– There was of course no ‘Babbage Act’ proper, but he figures prominently in the events leading up to the “Street Music (Metropolis) Bill”, which I’ve slightly amended to ensure the absolute banning of all street music, not even excluding Punch and Judy shows which the original bill shockingly allowed. In the public’s mind it might as well be the Babbage Act however– nearly every parliamentary debate I can find on the subject has a mention of him:

The Mr Bass arguing for the bill in that debate was the founder of the still-chugging Bass Brewery, and publisher of “Street Music in the Metropolis”.

I feel obliged to reassure everyone that, although I’ll be producing a parade of entertaining documents regarding Babbage and Street Music, there is no need to form a Tragic Picture of Charles Babbage, Unacknowledged Genius, unjustly known by his ungrateful age only as the enemy of street music. Babbage himself might have indulged himself with such a picture, but in my opinion the Victorians on the whole did themselves credit here. At least going by the popular press, the contemporary view of Babbage seems to have been, “Charles Babbage, that super-genius who invented some sort of amazing calculating machine, that has unfortunately run into technical and financial difficulties, but still! super-genius!” Even I, who have become accustomed to running across his name everywhere, was taken aback the other day to see someone refer to him as more famous than Newton!

Anyways, just in case that’s been keeping anyone up at night. Worrying about Babbage I mean.

– The lengthy section in which Lovelace discusses the potential for the Analytical Engine to manipulate symbols as well as numbers (Note A) uses the example of music as such an application:

“Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”

Given that she was well aware that Babbage couldn’t stand music (he ‘tolerated it in its exquisite form’ is the best he can claim), and given that the both of them had a lamentable habit of joking around in their private correspondence, I have feeling she put that in to kind of yank his chain a little bit– especially from the use of that otherwise mysterious word ‘extent’. If a cartoonist may be allowed an opinion.

– That’s actually a map of Manchester in 1843 that Babbage is looming over; I couldn’t find a public-domain one of London. Curses!

Well I don’t know about you but I’m STARVING. Enjoy the comic!

Oh geez I can’t believe I forgot a Most Important Note!!!
Ada Lovelace did indeed once tell Babbage that she would make her brain subservient to his plans– well, what she actually wrote (in 1841, at a guess, she hardly ever dated her letters) was:

“It strikes me that at some future time (it might be even within 3 or 4 years, or it might be many years hence), my head may be made by you subservient to some of your purposes & plans. If so, if ever I could be worthy or capable of being used by you, my head shall be yours. And it is on this that I wish to speak most seriously to you. You have always been a kind and real & most invaluable friend to me; & I would that I could in any way repay it, though I scarcely dare so exalt myself as to hope however humbly, that I can be intellectually worth to attempt serving you.”

It’s always helpful when people already talk like comic books, so their dialogue is much easier to write! That is quoted by the way from the most invaluable source of Babbage/Lovelace correspondence, the lengthy 1980 article Lady Lovelace and Charles Babbage. It crams loads of primary documents into 30 pages, has a minimum of the Helpful Editorializing that so wearisomely burdens this subject, is refreshingly capable of admitting to ambiguity and downright unknowability, and has the additional interest of being written by computer pioneer Harry Huskey and his wife Velma. I’ve found this more useful than all the books on the subject of Lovelace put together, to be absolutely honest for a fraction of a second. Unfortunately you have to cough up 19 bucks for it, unless you belong to a subscribing institution. The things I do for this comic!

On to The Organist Part 3

The Organist Pt 3

This entry is part 3 of 12 in the series The Organist

So,  this took way too long.  Also, it’s very disorganized and I’m not thrilled with a lot of the transitions, but I comfort myself with the thought this is not an actual comic, merely a theoretical comic. Anyways, let us not loose sight of what’s really important, which is, WE WON THE HOCKEY.

On to The Organist Part 4!


– The tableau of exploding street musicians is a wee tribute to Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom, possibly the greatest animated short of all time.. it’s also notable (Babbage includes this important information in some of his little charts of the street music menace) that a large portion, or at least a visible one, of the street musicians of London were foreigners.

With that in mind, a little 2dgoggles soundtrack for you:

Hurdy Gurdy:



– The modest lineup of scientist there waiting for the Difference Engine includes George Airy, Babbage’s real-life nemesis, who I’m happy to say looks suitably Scrooge-like in his caricatures (centre of the 3rd row down). Also Michael Faraday, there’s some sort of thing where he was supposedly bad at math that I’m totally running with, at the very least he told told Babbage that he ‘could not understand his great work’. Next to Faraday is Mary Sommerville, if anyone in the history of science ever screamed ‘KNITTER’ it was she.. she was a good friend of both Lovelace and Babbage and there’s plenty I could write about her but geez these notes are already huge.

And next to her is Darwin (good call on the beard there Darwin), I couldn’t resist that quote of his because it’s the most freaking’ adorable quotation ever:

I have been much amused with an account I have received of the wars of Don Roderick & Babbage— what a grievous pity it is that the latter should be so implacable, & if one might so call the calculating machine, so very silly.

The only possible response to that is, :D!!!!!!

– You wouldn’t think that quote would be toppable but check out this letter from Brunel to some poor bastard:

“Plain gentlemanly language seems to have no effect upon you. I must try stronger language and stronger measures. You are a cursed, lazy, inattentive, apathetic vagabond, and if you continue to neglect my instructions and to show such infernal laziness, I shall send you about your business. I have frequently told you, amongst other absurd, untidy habits, that that of making drawings on the backs of others was inconvenient; by your cursed neglect of that you have again wasted more of my time than your whole life is worth, in looking for the altered drawings you were to make of the station they won’t do.”

HAHAHA If I worked for Brunel I would be SO FIRED.

– ‘confound you all’ is from source for all goodness in this comic, Babbage’s autobiography, the quotation on the frontsipiece is “I’m a philosopher. Confound them all— Birds, beasts, and men ; but no, not womankind.” From, as fate would have it, Byron’s Don Juan.

– Just a reminder for those using the comic as a source for their history papers, the Prime Minister during the 1830s and 40s was actually Robert Peel, helpfully pre-caricatured for me by various Punch cartoonists (which is good because he’s not very funny looking as Victorians go). Robert Peel is most famous for founding the first (non-mathematical) police force, which is why the London Constabulary are known as “Bobbies” or “Peelers”. I guess Babbage and Lovelace are therefore referred to as “Wellies”.

Wellington’s explanation of being more prominent in this comic on account of being ‘cooler’ shows his rudimentary understanding of the physics of the Pocket Universe– our current advanced understanding of this subject can best be expressed by the well-known equation that applies also to our own universe:


except in the Pocket Universe the ‘E’ represents ‘Entertainment Value’. It is thus not surprising that the massiest objects in the PU are Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, because they are really, REALLY entertaining. Incidentally this provides an explanation for what some of you may be wondering, viz., what has become of Lovelace’s husband, Lord Lovelace. After exhaustive investigations I have determined that his Entertainment Value or E is precisely zero. Hence, according to the above equation, either his mass, or the speed of light, must therefore also be zero, and if the speed of light was zero then you wouldn’t be able to see the comic.

Work is picking back up so comic production remains MOST INEFFICIENT and full of ERRORS, but then you all knew that didn’t you? But at some point, we finally meet The Organist:

On to The Organist Part 4!

Lovelace and Babbage Vs. The Organist, Part 4

This entry is part 4 of 12 in the series The Organist

Too late have I realized this series should be called “Lovelace and Babbage Vs Organized Crime”. Dang it! For the sountrack to the first part of this comic, press play:

Music is the silence between the notes, they say, just as the comic is the bunch of drawings between these NOTES:

– Obviously the most historically problematic part of the comic is the inclusion of Brunhilde among The Sopranos. This ultimate iconic role wasn’t performed until 1876- ALTHOUGH, it was created in the 1850s, so it’s not as silly as it may have initially seemed.

– the Lair of the Organist is located in St Louis, Missouri.

– The Assorted Musical Miscreants, otherwise known as the Clockwork Quartet, feed me exquisite chocolates and and are here to raise the fashion tone around this comic.

– The Organist bears a suspicious, and yet Entirely Coincidental resemblance to Mr Bruce of The Correspondents, because every time I see that guy I think, ‘that guy NEEDS to be a Super-villain’. Um, I hope that’s okay.

Street Organists do in fact seem to have been a bit of a mafia. Babbage was not the only one to claim the organ grinders were a protection racket (“nice quiet street you got here. Shame if someone started playing a really loud organ.”). Mostly the organs were owned by a central depot and rented out to hacks, somewhat like taxicabs. According to the Museum of Self-Playing Instruments in Kew, an automatic street-piano would cost 2/6d to rent per day in the 1890s from the Tomasso and Sons company- here’s one from that very same nefarious organisation, enjoy!

Business idea: create virus that will autoplay barrel-organ music, with handy pop-up explaining music will stop with a donation to an untraceable account. Include cute monkey icon!

Charles Wheatstone! So, I knew I wanted him in the comic for various reasons but I have to say he’s given me a hard time. It turns out I’ve been spoiled rotten on the fantastic wealth of entertaining primary documents around Babbage and Lovelace, because would you believe it all I keep getting for this guy is a bunch of interesting scientific papers! What the heck is up with that? The one spark I’m trying to fan into a flame is that, while an inexhaustible talker in private, he was so terrified of public speaking that Michael Faraday used to have to give his lectures for him at the Royal Society. Also, I’m not sure if Babbage ever forgave Wheatstone for inventing the concertina.

With historical basis however is that he was given to Cunning Plans, one of which it involved our very own Lady Lovelace. From a late 1844 letter from Lovelace to her husband:

“I have had Wheatstone with me the last 5 hours.. he has given me much important information, & still more important advice. He is anxious I should take such a position as may enable me to influence Prince Albert, who is, he knows, a very clever young man.”

The gist of the Plan was that Lovelace should get close to the Prince Consort and replace him with an evil automaton replica serve him as “a sensible adviser and suggester, to indicate to him the channels for his exercising a scientific influence.” A large component of this long-range plan involved slowly building Lovelace’s reputation by having her write translations and compendia of scientific papers from the Continent. It was in fact Wheatstone and not Babbage who had first suggested, nearly two years before this meeting, that she publish something on the Analytical Engine. To me it looks like Wheatstone was one of several who was looking to Lovelace as the successor to Mary Somerville, who had been writing similar translations and elucidations a decade or so earlier but had permanently moved to Italy in 1838. Victorian Science being run on the Smurfette principle of gender balance, there was a gap in the market.

Wheatstone’s plans were to be cut short by Lovelace’s untimely death, but slowed down by other more ambiguous problems, which brings us to:

The Demon Poetry

That’s Elizabeth Barrett Browning slamming The Soul’s Expression there– Here she is rocking a hella goth look. Poetry slams can be very dangerous things, I’m here to tell you. I met my husband at one so let that be a terrible warning to you all.

Here is a very important historical document about dangerous poets.

–A fear of Lovelace developing a ‘poetic’ temperament was expressed even by Byron- “I hope the Gods have made her anything save poetical– it is enough to have one such fool in the family.” I’m reasonably sure this was a euphemism, and the concern was centred more around the alarming history of what we’d now call mental illness in the Byron line, which was to become something of an obsession for Ada’s mother.

It’s hard to write anything of medium-blog length about Lovelace, as I’m either forced to handwave or go on for pages.. I wish I could recommend a biography but although there are several, they range from the adequate to the not-adequate, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. Oh well!

Diagnosing long-dead people is a harmless and futile hobby (for the five people reading this to whom this means anything, the bipolar thing is pretty much the only thing I agree with in the Stein biography). So, to use technically neutral language, there is a widening streak of weird that starts showing up periodically in Lovelace’s letters in her mid-twenties. I have to say if you’ve ever had a friend with a bipolar disorder these set off the same “Oh, geeeez..” alarm bells as an extremely lengthy and odd email from an otherwise charming friend. I could quote you some stuff but that seems like kind of a jerky thing to do, so, I won’t.

In late ’43, shortly after she finished the Notes on Babbage’s engine, Lovelace’s doctor began to attempt to treat an ‘illness’ of what Lovelace termed ‘whims and manias’ with a mixture of opium, morphine, and gin. Did it work? Amazingly, no. Noooo, it didn’t. Lovelace’s history enters an extremely murky period at this point.

A powerful faith in Self-Improvement was pretty much the only Victorian thing about Ada Lovelace– as she wrote: “There has been no end to the manias and whims I have been subject to, & which nothing but the most resolute determination on my part could have mastered.” It sure seems like a few years later the weird patches in the letters vanished as mysteriously as they came, not to return at least in the few years she had left to her. She attributes this to the elimination of ’1. extravagant stimulating 2. extravagant dosing’ and ‘the judicious management of a very susceptible temperament’. Pocket-universe Lovelace continues the struggle against her ‘hydra-headed monster’.

Anyways, better wind this down! One last note:

- ‘that’s Tuesdays, man’ — Lovelace’s attitude to her father fluctuated a fair bit during her life, but we’ll go into that in a later comic!

(Incidentally if anyone wants to spend five hours outlining a plan whereby I would gradually ascend to Total Comics Domination I would be delighted to listen, but bring sandwiches. Five hours!)

Lovelace and Babbage vs The Organist, pt 5

This entry is part 5 of 12 in the series The Organist

This is a totally self-indulgent episode that has nothing to do with anything.

What’s the use of Pictures and Conversations without NOTES?

This episode is dedicated to Martin Gardner’s Annotated Alice, which I read until it fell apart; more recently I’ve been hugely enjoying Lewis Carroll in Numberland, a highly recommend little book, from whence this episode has sprung.

Through the Looking Glass (And What Alice Found There) was published in 1871, the year of Babbage’s death, and much too late for Lovelace who would have loved it I think. Charles Babbage, I am THRILLED to report, did once meet Lewis Carroll, in 1867:

“Then I called on Mr. Babbage, to ask whether any of his calculating machines are to be had. I find they are not. He received me most kindly, and I spent a very pleasant three-quarters of an hour with him, while he showed me over his workshops etc.”

I have to wonder if Charles Dodgson (as we should call his name, in his Mathematical Incarnation) is kidding here; it seems impossible to me that he didn’t know the most famous thing about the Engines being that they didn’t exist. How sad that they didn’t have a longer acquaintance!

It’s even sadder that he never met Lovelace- he would have been about 20 when she died, and there’s more than a touch of the kindred spirit there; at least so it seems to me. Their ‘voices’ at least sound very similar– here’s Lovelace for instance, writing to her informal tutor August de Morgan:

Dear Mr De Morgan-

I may remark that the curious transformations many formulae can undergo, the unsuspected & to a beginner apparently impossible identity of forms exceedingly dissimilar at first sight, is I think one of the chief difficulties in the early part of mathematical studies. I am often reminded of certain sprites & fairies one reads of, who are at one’s elbows in one shape now, & the next minute in a form most dissimilar; and uncommonly deceptive, troublesome & tantalising are the mathematical sprites & fairies sometimes; like the types I have found for the in works of Fiction..

and Dodgson, on trying to find a proof–

“Like the goblin ‘Puck’, it has led me “up and down, up and down,” through many a wakeful night: but always, just as I thought I had it, some unforeseen fallacy was sure to trip me up, and the tricksy sprite would “leap out, laughing, ho ho ho!”"

Lovelace and Dodgson both loved Euclid (Lovelace: “It is a very pretty little Theorem– so neat and tidy! the various parts dovetail so nicely!”) and the emerging field of symbolic logic, and both stumbled through the Nameless Wood of calculus– Lovelace wrote to De Morgan “these Functional Equations are complete Will-o-the-wisps to me’, and Dodgson, after four years (!) of studying Mathematics at Oxford and despite coming at the top of his class, writes “talked over the Calculus of Variations with Price today; I see no prospect of understanding the subject at all.” You may need to recalibrate your judgements of people’s math by the way– Carroll was already lecturing in mathematics at Oxford when he described the end of Differential Calculus as ‘new to me’ as late as the 1850s!

Look at me, rambling on.. MORE NOTES!

Zero, a subject fascinating to ‘non-mathematical minds’ I have been informed, is both real and imaginary– Leibniz calls it “a fine and wonderful refuge of the divine spirit – almost an amphibian between being and non-being.”

–Lovelace’s sums are correct if done in binary.
A gloriously simple and clever binary counter
A handsome Rube-Golbergian binary adding machine.
–For a truly awesome introduction to the history of binary, I refer you to this concise paper with loads of interesting docs (PDF), including this lovely passage from Liebniz:

One of the main points of the Christian Faith, and among those points that have penetrated least into the minds of the worldly-wise and that are difficult to make with the heathen is the creation of all things out of nothing through God’s omnipotence, it might be said that nothing is a better analogy to, or even demonstration of such creation than the origin of numbers as here represented, using only unity and zero or nothing.

I love the bit about publishing this discovery in the form of a large medal.. talk about cumbersome notation!

– `Too much mathematics!” — Here is an Alice-in-Wonderland conundrum for you: as we all know, Lovelace’s mother attempted to curtail the inherited Poetical Disorder of Ada’s mind through rigorous mathematical study. On the other hand, her tutor Augustus de Morgan worried about the well-known fact that studying mathematics damaged women’s brains, as he expressed in this extraordinary letter to Lovelace’s mother. If she did NOT go mad through not ENOUGH mathematics, she was bound to go mad by studying TOO MUCH. It’s heartbreaking to read the letter to De Morgan’s wife Sophia that I quoted in the last episode–

”There has been no end to the manias & whims I have been subject to, & which nothing but the most resolute determination on my part could have mastered. The disorder had been a Hydra-headed monster; — no sooner vanquished in one shape, than it has sprung up in another.[…] Many causes have contributed to the past derangement; & I shall in future avoid them. One ingredient, (but only one among many) had been too much Mathematics.”

Yikes. Anyways, to happier subjects–

It’s My Own Invention!

– It was Lovelace, not Babbage, who invented a steam-powered horse, but as she was 13 at the time she was unable to secure government funding.

– Charles Babbage’s horsemanship cannot be accurately assessed from the available documents, except for the unbearably awesome fact that Ada Lovelace lent Babbage a freaking’ pony when he used to visit her estate: “You can have a pony all to yourself, and never have to walk a step except on the terrace, the ‘Philosopher’s Walk’” (1849-ish) I want a pony.

– Lovelace to Babbage, 1848, re his TicTacToe machine: “You say nothing of Tic-tac-toe– in yr. last. I am alarmed lest it should never be accomplished. I want you to complete something; especially if the something is likely to produce silver & golden somethings..” :D

–The delightful image of Ada as Alice and Babbage as The White Knight, which only becomes more apt the more I think about it, is not mine–it’s throwaway line of Lovelace’s first biographer Doris Langley Moore. I’d criticise Moore’s bio but I’m afraid she’d slice me in half with a microscopic lift of one perfectly groomed eyebrow. I’d criticise all the rest of the bios but I’m too chicken to do that too; at least, I’m waiting until I can do it without being really fighty and unpleasant. Instead, I’ll stick to passive-aggressive digs! Soon I shall sink to writing mean reviews on Amazon under a pseudonym, instead of the approved method of elaborately sarcastic letters to the Times Literary Supplement that commence: SIR–

Anyways!! Seriously I could have done Alice episodes forever but I promise, next episode MONKEYS! COFFEE! EVIL SCHEMES! POSSIBLY EVEN A MUSICAL NUMBER!

PS- small query– how is the size of the comic working for you? Too big? To small? How about the size of the text? It’s hard to tell what the best size is, right now I’m doing them 550 px wide with 14 pt text but that seems a bit big.. opinions?

Lovelace and Babbage vs the Organist, Pt 6

This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series The Organist

As the ancient saying goes, “Audiences are like monkeys.  Give them a grape a day, not a whole bucket of bananas at once!” Sadly I am so constructed that buckets of bananas are my natural production unit.  And they don’t get much more bananas than this here.   It’s been a while, GOD KNOWS, so a summary of how we have reached our present state:


–Isambard Kingdom Brunel.  Engineer. Genius.  Coffee connoisseur and Master of Sarcasm:

Brunel to the Swindon rail station coffee shop proprietor, who had heard Mr Brunel had a complaint:

Dear Sir,
I assure you that Mr Player was wrong in supposing that I thought you purchased inferior coffee. I thought I said to him that I was surprised you should buy such bad roasted corn. I did not believe you had coffee in the place: I am certain that I never tasted any. I have long ceased to make complaints at Swindon. I avoid taking anything there when I can help it.

Brunel also gave as a principal reason for his pursuance of the broad-gauge rail the smoothness of the ride enabling him to drink his coffee.  I’m guessing caffine had a part to play in his only sleeping four hours a night.  I’m trying to figure out how he had a hand free to draw, seeing as he was BOTH continually smoking cigars and continually drinking coffee.

– The Coffee House was a fixture of both high and low Victorian London, ever as much as it is today.  Finding decent coffee was notoriously difficult; if you find yourself wandering around Victorian London looking for a cup, you may consult this excellent guide.

– Every once in a while, a piece of evidence is found which utterly overturns the foundations of an understanding we once thought unshakably sound;  evidence which forces a humble confession of the inability of our puny constructions to hold up before the awesome weight and complexity of Truth.  Such  epoch-birthing evidence is found in this painting, from which I drew the coffee shop interior– before you click I warn you– it contains a SHOCKING IMAGE.

They are all wearing hats.  INSIDE.

My inside/outside no-hat/hat paradigm is utterly shattered.  Is it because there are no ladies?  As usual with everything cool in Victorian England, women were not admitted to Respectable Coffeshops… in any case I need to go and lie down for a while before I recover from this shock.

– I honestly have no idea at all what impact an actually Analytical Engine would have had on the course of Victorian Science.  They did pretty good without it!

– Here is a period Organ Grinder and monkey:

– Although we pride ourselves on our meticulous research here at 2dgoggles, there is no evidence that Charles Babbage was ever kidnapped by an army of capuchin monkeys.  He did have troubles with mobs, sadly, as can be found in the following anecdote (warning:  in this anecdote, the human race kind of sucks):

A German band was in the habit of annexing a position before his house, and treating him to its music. .. Babbage got tired of this sort of thing, and ordered them go and play somewhere else.  They refused, and he, worn out by their music, left his study to seek a policeman and have them moved on.  Like Carlyle, he dressed quaintly, and moreover, at the moment, he was bareheaded… Babbage’s dispute with the band soon collected a small crowd, eager to witness the fun.

Hatless!  In the streets!  At least some things I KNOW are wrong.

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.

Lovelace and Babbage Vs The Organist, Part 8

This entry is part 8 of 12 in the series The Organist

At long last! DANGER! INTRIGUE! CHARTS! It’s Lovelace and Babbage Vs The Organist, Part 8!

Just a few short notes for this one..

- John Thomas was a Welsh harp prodigy who was put through school by Lady Lovelace, so he did owe her (although the real one was 9 years old at the time).   He eventually became Harpist to the Queen!  Just one of those random facts I have to stuff into the comic somewhere.  Maybe this whole business is like ‘Singin’ In The Rain’, where they were contractually obliged to turn a random bunch of 20 year old songs into a musical.

The song is Ar lan y mor, here’s a restful moment for you and a nice change from the usual cacophony around here:

Lovelace herself was divided on whether to pursue the strand of music, or the strand of mathematics in her short and restless life.  The harp was her favorite instrument.

- Triads to appear in Chinese music but as it is heterophonic they’re not characteristic.  Wikipedia:  allowing me to bullshit through my teeth since 2001! When the Triads appear you can play the following:

Diminished triad

That’s what you call an Enhanced Comic.

Really sorry about the long waits folks.. I figured when I was done the film (coming soon! as well as the US release for The Illusionist! ) I would be a buzzing bundle of energy but instead I crumpled into a heap a little bit.  I’m off to Denmark for a couple of weeks to teach at the Animation Workshop, which is a kind of animation retreat/monastery/spa so I expect to regain my Vital Magnetisms, as well as have some nice Danish beers and draw me some more comics!

ADDENDUM: The shady character is selling a mix of tin whistles and piccolos. Fun fact, I played the piccolo in Jr High Band, which is about as high as I got in my misspent youth.

Lovelace and Babbage vs The Organist, Part 9

This entry is part 9 of 12 in the series The Organist

Soooo many monkeys.. day late, dollar short,  here is it is! Part 9!  Remember, every single panel of Lovelace and Babbage is drawn only with ink distilled from the blood of the finest genuine Victorian orphans!   Enjoy!


– not a whole lot of notes for the first part, though if you want to read the actual training methods of Victorian Organ Grinder’s monkeys this is fairly horrifying. So, historical accuracy on the psycho monkeys.

– mostly this episode (this whole story, really) is grown from a spore that implanted itself in my brain from The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise. It’s a bit hard to explain what this is.. let’s turn to the ever-invaluable Google Books, shall we?

First, the Bridgewater Project:

So far, so clear? This is an age that comes before “Origin of Species” but one that was already copying with volley of blows against its intellectual foundations from that usurping berserker, Science. The Bridgewater series was supposed to assure everyone that everything was Okay and not to worry. It seems to have gone pretty well with a bunch of respectable chemists and so on writing eight respectable little books on, essentially, Intelligent Design.

Anyways in one of these, natural-philosopher-about-town William Whewell (coiner of the word ‘Scientist’ by the way, in reference to Mary Sommerville) wrote the following:

We may thus, with the greatest propriety, deny to the mechanical philosophers and mathematicians of recent times any authority with regard to their views of the administration of the universe; … But we might perhaps go farther, and assert that they are in some respects less likely than men employed in other pursuits, to make any clear advance towards such a subject of speculation.

I confess I couldn’t follow Whewell’s argument myself, but I do know fightin’ words when I see them.  As the living representative of Mathematics on Earth, Babbage couldn’t be expected to take this lying down, and thus wrote the ‘Ninth Bridgewater Treatise,  to, as one reviewer put it, “call the unpromising subject of mathematics into the field.”

The 9th Bridgewater isn’t very long but it is pretty fantastic, though even his best friends must admit it’s a little disorganized.  I heartily recommend downloading the PDF or ePUB version (link is on the far right), if you want a snapshot of both 1830s scientific thought, and of the brain of that marvellous mixture of Mr Pickwick, Mr. Toad, Don Quixote, and Leonardo Da Vinci that was Charles Babbage.  It includes:

- the importance of diversity in science.  Yes, he uses the word ‘diversity’.  It’s Political Correctness gone mad!– All about Geology! — an astonishingly modern description of Evolution.. imagine if there was ONE RULE that controlled evolution.. what could it be.. what could it.. oh look a squirrel!  — FUND MY DIFFERENCE ENGINE YOU BASTARDS– Wanting to be really really famous is totally not a character flaw — the most unconvincing explanation of miracles using statistical analysis you are ever likely to read–  — oh and a whole Christmas cracker of other stuff.  What there isn’t a whole lot of is an explanation of how mathematics demonstrates the benificence of God, but, whatever. Particularly striking is his God-the-Programmer view of the Universe, and his thought experiment– what if God created a whole bunch of universes– an infinite number!  each with different laws!

In amidst this stuff is the bit about the eternal reverberations in the atmosphere from which I’ve extracted the above.  This was the Big Hit of this book, though maybe does not hold up as well in terms of Science as the multiple universes thing.  At this point I should throw around some half-digested bullshit about Chaos Theory and butterflies or something.

Wonderful as Bridgewater is, its reception by the baffled book reviewers is also entertaining.. highlights:

“Some chapters have no end; many more have no beginning; and one at least may be fairly said to have no beginning, middle, or end.”

The Lucasian professor still seems to labour, to use his own words, under that ‘imputation of mental incapacity’ of which he so loudly complains..  I particularly enjoy the comparison of Babbage’s ‘morbid sensitivity to neglect’ to none other than… Lord Byron!

You can read these and a few more in my collection of primary docs, Bridgewater. Collected and annotated with MUCH LABOUR BY YOUR TIRELESS AND HUMBLE SERVANT who is now going to bed.

Lovelace and Babbage Vs The Organist Pt 10

This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series The Organist

Greeting from Beautiful York on this New Years Eve! I swore I would get The Organist up before midnight*! Your slightly hysterical fearless sequential artist is battling against spotty B&B wifi but fingers crossed and champagne guzzled to bring you..Lovelace and Babbage vs The Organist, Part 10!

In an unusual, alcohol fueled move, the notes will be postponed until I am more sober, I am sure in the morning we will all agree this was the right decision. So have a very very happy New Year whatever spot on the globe you inhabit!

**and the ‘don’t post while drunk’ award goes to… Sydney Padua!! whooo!! thank you thank you..

*actually, I swore I would finish The Organist before the New Year, but it KEEPS GETTING LONGER.

EDITED TO ADD: and here are the notes:

- “Wheastone has given me some very striking counsels. I did not think the little man had such depth in him. I can’t write it all to you, or even a small part, but I know you will agree fully, with him when you do hear it.” – Lovelace writes this to her husband, in regards to Wheastone’s schemes for Lovelace’s scientific writing career, or else it’s about the world domination plans. We may never know!


The Organist

- Here is some visual reference of that Shadowy Kingpin The Organist being EEEEEVIL:


Machines that have absolutely nothing to do with each other that coincidentally use similar mechanisms to perform operations to pre-defined patterns

- This enchanting little machine is a serinette or ‘bird-organ’:

These machines go back to the early 18th century, and I’m told the purpose of them was to teach canaries to sing (though surely it would be starlings that can learn tunes?). Ada Lovelace was an enthusiastic keeper of birds- she and Babbage were both big animal-lovers– isn’t it nice to think of her having demonstrating one to Babbage? It’s not very loud and he could have watched the mechanism!

- Babbage’s Analytical Engine used both peg-barrels and punchcards. The punchcard roller from which our heroes are fleeing is of this kind:


- The Genius/Music chart–

Babbage gives us a single data point on this issue:

This is simply not enough information from which to construct an accurate chart, so I you should know the Genius vs Music Exposure graph in the comic should not be used in any citations. I thought of just having a simple linear progression, or else maybe the effect only really sets in under severe exposure? However given the unending cliffhangers of this storyline and the extreme levels of music to which pocket-universe Babbage is subjected the inevitable convergence on zero was too dire to contemplate. So I went with a tapering slow-in and slow out of the effect:

In actuality it could actually be anything really– I mean it could be a bell curve where at some point the effect reverses:

But that would just be silly.



I am reentering Gainful Employment in a couple of weeks, this is what I’m doing:

I spent all weekend trying on metal bikinis and turns out they want me to play the Giant Monster! Oh well. Fear not for the continued life of the comic however! Perusing the history of postings to this site I’m surprised to see that I’m producing very nearly as much comics when I’m on a film as when I’m not.. I think when I have too much time on my hands the comic becomes more of a ‘job’ and loses the all-important feeling of skiving off that is so essential to creativity.

Sorry to be so late on replying to comments, I’m several months late at this point I believe. At some point I will compose replies, no doubt long after the original commenter has forgotten they ever read the comic. Please believe that I love each and every comment I get and my only difficulty is in making an adequate reply.

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