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The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer (Pantheon Graphic Novels) Hardcover – April 21, 2015

4.7 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Series: Pantheon Graphic Novels
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (April 21, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307908275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307908278
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.1 x 10.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Carol Hamer on August 8, 2015
Format: Hardcover
I had been seeing this book around, but I was really hesitant to pick it up. Why?

Well, as a woman in software engineering, I'm painfully aware of what a controversial figure Ada Lovelace is. She's been hailed as the inventor of computer programming -- which has led to some incredibly virulent backlash, accusing her of having been some sort of hack who merely copied down other people's ideas without even really understanding them herself.

Now, let's not kid ourselves. If a man had written the article Lovelace wrote, There's no way we'd see the same sorts of ferocious efforts to prove him incompetent. OTOH, if it had been a man, we hardly would have heard about him at all. He'd probably be accepted by some as the "father of computer programming"... in kind of a footnotey, nobody-cares kinda way. But in my line of work, it's dangerous to talk about sexism unless you want a ton of it to rain down on your head, so I wasn't terribly interested in miring myself in this controversy. Thus a book that looked like it was probably a sunny-and-dry retelling of team Lovelace's side of the story didn't jump out at me as something that would be appealing.

Boy was I wrong!!

Surprisingly, the author used the oldest trick in the book for dealing with an acrimonious controversy: present the evidence. The primary sources. And then even-handedly discuss the controversy in light of the evidence.

Now, if that sounds more boring to you than "a sunny-and-dry retelling of team Lovelace's side of the story," here's the genius of it -- it's not boring at all -- it's wildly fun and entertaining!! Quite sincerely, I think the author of this book has invented a new genre, and a brilliant one at that.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Five stars BUT do not get the Kindle edition. Although you can enlarge each comic panel, the foot notes on each page (which are fun and interesting and worth the read) get only a tiny bit bigger. Very frustrating. Go for the hard cover. Amusing story, partly true, partly fiction and well written and drawn.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
More cogs and footnotes than I imagined possible. Truth and fiction dancing together to the progressive chunk-a-chunk of steam powered machinery and the chattering rise and fall of Victorian gossip.
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Format: Hardcover
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua is an irreverent and quirky view of what could have been the most outstanding scientific collaboration that didn't happen. Padua tells her tale in a graphic comic format with artwork reminiscent of early turn of the century (the 1900s) political cartoons. Its fun! Its awesome! Its over indulgent cheesecake for the geek universe!

Charles Babbage is Victorian London's unrecognized inventor of what would become the modern day computer with his plans for a monstrous mechanical calculating machine. Ada Lovelace is the Countess of Lovelace and daughter of the mad and brilliant poet, Lord Byron. Ada Lovelace translates a description of Babbage's calculating machine with annotations that were three times longer than the original plans. These footnotes from Lovelace actually contain the first known general computing theory, a century before the first actual computer was built! Unfortunately Lovelace passed away before her paper was ever published and Babbage never built his brilliant machine.

Sydney Padua creates an alternate reality where Lovelace and Babbage create their awesome calculating machine. A behemoth that grows and grows in steam powered engines, and gears, and analytics, and doo dads and just freakin' awesome stuff. They will open up and explore the wild and untamed dimensions of mathematics! They will create economic models to stave off depressions! The will battle the demons of spelling errors! And for the Queen herself, create dot matrix kittens!

Tongue in cheek perhaps, totally geeky surely, but fun all the same. Original. Thought provoking. Full of "what if" and untapped potential.
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Format: Hardcover
I delighted in this quirky book.

Central to the book is a lighthearted comic starring historical figures. Charles Babbage designed the first computer and Ada Lovelace was its programmer. In reality, the computer never got built, but in the comic, it did. The driven Lovelace and impulsive Babbage find new ways to use it in 1800's London and struggle to keep it running amid mice, cats, and untrained users. I thought the author and artist did an amazing job of creating and drawing these characters and their world. The plots were often thin, but I got a sense the plots were only a pretext for ...

Each page has multiple footnotes, each chapter then has pages of endnotes, and the book has two appendices and an epilogue! Each delves deeper into the historical facts surrounding Lovelace and Babbage. You learn about each's background and how they both ended up working on the Analytical Engine. You find out about their struggles, Lovelace with her family and Babbage with getting funding for his projects. You also learn more about the characters who show up --- I especially loved learning about Brunel! Also tucked in there is some mathematics (Boole) and computer science (flow charts). Appendix #2 is a description of the Analytical Engine itself, which was fascinating for a computer geek like me.

This is the author's first book and I see it as experimental. I loved the comic part and I loved the history part, but I don't think she has got the right format down yet. It doesn't flow. I'm not sure if it should have no endnotes, and let the comic run freely through the book, or no footnotes, so that I read the comic smoothly like any other comic. In any case, I would love to read more of her work. I hope she find an editor that can direct her curiosity and whimsy into a thought-out structure.
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