The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer

Sydney Padua

Tuesday, August 2 2016 at 7:30PM

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48-52 Canal St

Sydney Padua

What's the talk about?

[Five Leaves Bookshop will be selling Sydney's book at this event]

One hundred years before the first computers were built out of wires and transistors, the Victorian polymath Charles Babbage designed a gigantic steam-powered, punchcard-programmed, cogwheel computer, the Analytical Engine.  His friend Ada, Countess of Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, completed some of the first programs for the machine, and theorised that one day it could be used for the manipulation of any kind of information. Unfortunately Ada died young and Babbage never built his Engine, leaving their story as one of the greatest what-ifs in the history of science.

Sydney Padua’s cult webcomic The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, now a bestselling graphic novel, combines extensive research with alternate-universe comic-book escapes, where the mechanical computer is finally completed and used to build runaway economic models, defeat spelling errors, and of course, fight crime. In this talk she will tell the story of these two fascinating and brilliant eccentrics, and discuss her process of primary-source research and creative transformation. She will also display her 3-d animations of how the Analytical Engine would have looked and operated, some of the first visualisations ever created of that extraordinary machine.

Sydney Padua is a cartoonist and visual effects artist whose animation appears in The Iron Giant, Clash of the Titans, and John Carter. Her work has been featured in Wired and The Economist and she has spoken at Microsoft, Google, the BBC, and the Computer History Museum.

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