Review: “The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage” by Sydney Padua

Thumbs up for The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua. Graphic novel/historical fiction.

So Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage were real people, back in The Day, and Babbage designed the first computer but didn’t build it, and Lovelace wrote imaginary programs for it, and they were BFFs until Lovelace died way too early. Much more recently, Sydney Padua wrote a short webcomic about them concluding with a joke ending that posited an alternate universe in which Lovelace lived and THEY FIGHT CRIME. She had no intention of writing the rest of it, but the Internet made her do it; and thank you Internet, because this book is absolutely magnificent. If you have any interest at all in (choose any one or more of the following): computers, Victorians, graphic novels, women’s history, laughing your ass off, or footnotes, stop what you’re doing right now and go read it.

16. Babbage and Lovelace were often paired in period anecdotes, some of which you can find in the appendix. They had similar personalities—egocentric, naive, enthusiastic, and obsessive—and never quite fit in with stuffy Victorian society. So they were bound to either kill each other or become each other’s biggest fans. Some may wonder—was there anything romantic between them? There’s a good reason to think that there was, and that reason is, it’s extremely fun to think about. Sadly that’s the only reason, as there isn’t a hint of romance in any of their correspondence with each other, and they weren’t exactly the subtlest people in the world. Of course, there was that time Babbage wrote to her that he would visit her and her husband and ponder “that horrible problem—the three bodies,” but even I think that’s a stretch.

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