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Webcomic / The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

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Computer science actually is this cool.

"It doesn't fight crime, it PRINTS LARGE TABLES OF NUMBERS!!"

In Real Life, Charles Babbage was an eccentric genius and mathematician who designed the world's first computers and wrote the first computer programs. His mentee Ada, Countess of Lovelace, was the first to speculate upon computers as not mere calculation machines, but material representations of analysis. Sadly, Babbage's computers were never built and Lovelace died when she was 36.

As it turns out, Real Life sucks, so what actually happened was that Babbage and Lovelace built a Difference Engine that takes up an entire building and use it to fight crime. That is, if you define crime as street music and poetry.

The comic (found here) is written by Sydney Padua, who wrote the first installment in celebration of Ada Lovelace Day.


The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage provides examples of:

  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Babbage and Lovelace's ideas of what is objectionable are unorthodox at best.
  • Buffy Speak:
    Brunel: I'd be able to build gigantic iron ships, certainly–but could they FLY?
    Ada: It would indeed be difficult...
    Brunel: Would Darwin be able to mess around with his..uh, barnacles he won't talk about?
    Ada: Um, that one I'm not sure about...
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: Babbage gets a downright alarming one at the beginning of The Organist.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Charles Babbage has a tendency to be distracted from pressing issues by relative minutiae.
  • Cross Dresser: Lovelace, who generally wears a man's shirt and waistcoat (US: vest) on her upper half and a skirt and petticoat on her lower half. She occasionally goes full drag with shirt, waistcoat, jodhpurs and calf-length boots, as in the page image, but not very often.
  • Curse Cut Short:
    Babbage: I believe I may perceive some sort of mathematical pattern...
    Ada: No sh–
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lovelace has her moments.
    Babbage (about his harmonic disruptor): It's operated by a crank!
    Ada: Indeed.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Lovelace smokes like a steam engine, invariably from a pipe. They emphasize the general "I'm better than you" demeanour created by her combination of nobility and genius.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: An out-of-universe example with 'sterling engine'.
  • Drunk on Milk: Ada falls Off the Wagon and goes all out on poetry when she and Babbage split.
  • Face Palm: Ada gets one when Babbage starts in on The Cheese Story.
  • Fanservice: Well, footmen were selected for their fine physiques, so the shirtless minion drawings are not prurient interest, but historical, of course!
  • The Fantastic Trope of Wonderous Titles: As expected from a Steampunk work.
  • For Science!: Obviously. Invoked often enough by many a British scientist.
  • In the Blood: Ada Lovelace is taught mathematics to quell the poetical tendencies she inherited from her father, Lord Byron. She succumbs to poetry after she separates from Babbage during his crusade against street musicians. The first part is Truth in Television, bizarrely enough.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: As expected from a Steampunk work.
  • Large Ham: Everyone gets a turn being the hammiest of hammy, although Babbage probably is the hammiest one overall.
  • Loveable Rogue: Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Being the Engineer - and Friendly Enemy - to Babbage and Lovelace. In two of the tales, it's up to Brunel to fix what's gone wrong.
  • Mad Scientist: Babbage isn't mad (well, except when it comes to street musicians )... just not very well organized.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Organist bears a strange, yet totally coincidental resemblance to Mr. Bruce of ''The Correspondents."
  • Percussive Maintenance: Loads, even quoted verbatim in one introduction splash.
  • Police Are Useless: For a odd reason, why are Lovelace and Babbage the only ones doing actual crime-fighting? This was even discussed In-Universe by The Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel (founder of the modern British police force) in the third part of The Organist!
    Peel: Honourable members, why has the nation's crime-fighting been entrusted to random mathematicians? That doesn't even make sense! My proposal, of a civilian force...
    Wellington: Well you're not prime minister, are you, Peel? We all agreed I am cooler, so I win.
  • Serious Business: MATHEMATICS!!! Whenever Lovelace gets into one of her moods, she's seen mulling over the P=NP problem. And firing bullets into the wall while mulling it.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Actually justified in the following passage (just you try putting it any simpler than this):
    Astounding!! In enabling mechanism to combine general symbols in successions of variety and extent, a uniting link is established between the operations of matter and the abstract mental processes of the most abstract branch of mathematical science! A new, vast and powerful language is developed for the future of analysis, in which to wield its truths so that these may become of more speedy and accurate practical application for the purposes of mankind than the means hitherto in our investigation have rendered possible!
  • Shout-Out: Several, most notably to Lewis Carroll (and Martin Gardner) in The Organist.
  • Shown Their Work: Notes after each comic reveal the sources of historical and mathematical in-jokes and too-good-to-be-true-but-actually-are stories of Babbage's and Lovelace's life.
  • Stealth Insult: Well, she is the daughter of Lord Byron.
    Ada: I surmise it contains a small difference engine to analyze the acoustic wave patterns...
    Babbage: Exactly! It's operated by a crank!
    Ada: Indeed.
  • Stealth Pun: The Coniform Collector of Tympanic Violations.
  • Steampunk:
    • The Difference Engine is a giant clockwork. Their economy modeler runs on steam. Babbage's Harmonic Disruptor operates on punch cards. And on and on ...
    • The alternate history suggests that with the aid of the Difference Engine England is able to defeat the Martian horde...
    • To an extent, this is subverted. Padua has observed that the whole point of Steampunk is the awesome clothes...but the specific decade in which the comic is set was a decade of hideous fashion, and Lovelace and Babbage were probably two of the worst-dressed people in it. Lovelace and Babbage in the comic are considerably snappier dressers than they were in real life.
  • Suckiness Is Painful: The Organist.
  • This Is Your Brain on Evil: Ada has diagrams to show Your Brain on Poetry.
  • Unsound Effect: Loads. The best is "RE-BOOT!", the first reboot of a computer ever...of course done with a kick.
  • Uranus Is Showing: A footnote to "User Experience" states that "generations of sniggering schoolchildren have probably left Uranus feeling that on the whole it was better off as George."note