Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, by Sydney Padua

Back in the summer of 1991 I was finishing up my M Phil in Cambridge, and dropped in one day on my supervisor, who at the time was the curator of the Whipple museum of the history of science. He welcomed me into his office, shuffled through some manuscript papers with strange cylindrical diagrams on them, and flourished them at me: "These," he said, "are Charles Babbage's original blueprints for the Difference Engine." He had a tendency to do that. I remember one seminar on Newton where he brought in an authentic 17th-century widget, "just like Newton would have had", and showed the original owner's notes of how it had been used, almost casually indicating at the end that the original owner in this case had in fact been Isaac Newton. We would occasionally see the then Lucasian Professor, a post previously held by Babbage and Newton, trundling through the cobbled streets in his motorised wheelchair.

This book is a true delight - another web comic, now collected and edited in hard covers, exploring the possible alternate nineteenth century if Lovelace and Babbage together had built the Difference Engine (strictly the Analytical Engine) and therefore implemented computer programming over a century early. Queen Victoria, the Duke of Wellington, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, George Eliot, Sir William Rowan Hamilton and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson all make guest appearances. The whole thing is meticulously footnoted. I literally laughed until I cried at the revelation of the identity of Coleridge's Person from Porlock. This is absolutely and firmly getting my nomination for next year's Hugo for Best Graphic Story, and for anything else I can nominate it for as well.
Tags: bookblog 2015, comics, hugos 2016, poc
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