The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer
by Sydney Padua
Well, this was a strange but wonderful book! It's part biography part alternate history. It's the graphic novel story of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage as they build and use their first computer. It has plenty of footnotes that explain where many of the lines come from. As a woman in the computing industry, I've always looked up to Ada, Countess of Lovelace, for her role as the first ever computer programmer and her intelligence at pursuing a field of study that wasn't expected of a woman. And it was fun seeing and reading about her here with Babbage, as she comes into her own and as she worked with him on this project.
But after this first story, it goes on to an alternate reality of sorts where the difference engine becomes a real thing. It doesn't change the very course of history, but it does create a lot of interesting twists, turns, and adventures. For example, the engine is so large Ada pretty much lives inside it... with a court of cats who catch the mice and sometimes play with the cards she uses to program it. There are visits by potential important funders. There's an uprising by actual "computers" and financial implications. There's also a great story with the writer "George Eliot" who puts her story into the machine and then desperately must get it back out again. And even though all these stories are absolute fiction, there are still huge footnotes stating source material for so many of the lines and decisions made within these stories. Some of the footnotes even have primary source notes. And there's even a story in which Ada Lovelace has an altercation with a footnote! Just goes to show that we may never have a complete picture of history. But it's fun imagining these stories happened in some alternate reality somewhere.
I loved learning more about the two of them and seeing their relationship, however rocky it is at times and wonderful at other times. Seeing absent-minded Babbage and his "fairy lady" like this was entertaining and enjoyable. Definitely a strange but wonderful read!