A giant Difference Engine that crashes noisily in 1851. Why do I even bother trying to come up with new Babbage jokes?
The most vivid of all period descriptions of Babbage, and the most candid report of his view of Lovelace-- an 1864 printing of an 1854 private letter. Sometimes a crack opens in that impenetrable wall between the present and the past.. a marvellous and human glimpse of 19th century geeks, and my favorite of all these documents. (scroll up half a page for the beginning)
Punch STEALS ALL MY GAGS as usual.. bastards. Priceless comedy GOLD, baby.
From 1845, testament to the popular rumour that Ada had written "Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation", a weird proto-evolutionary manifesto (she didn't). Born under the star of Hershel, eccentric and fond of curious studies, hah!
A couple of flowery reminiscinces-- 'an understanding thoroughly masculine in its solidity'. Also, why do poets not have many children?
Amongst the many things Babbage was famous for was 'The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise"- a somewhat weird but influential collection of musings on the relation of Science to Theology. Babbage was a firm believer to the end of his life; with his God-the-Programmer view of the universe he seems to have settled the issue to his own satisfaction. There are many period reactions to this piece in this list.
Oh dear.. even the tireless Babbage-boosters at Mechanic's Magazine savage Bridgewater. "Some chapters have no end; many more have no beginning; and one at least may be fairly said to have no beginning, middle, or end."
Babbage meets a man after his own heart - Adolphe Quetelet, founder of 'social physics'-- actuarial tables and the reduction of everything possible to statistics. Quetelet is much impressed with Babbage's 'gigantic plan' to collect statistics on, well, everything.
A piece on the Analytical Engine leads to a mention of Lovelace, and then a little celebration of women in mathematics.
There are plenty more of these-- Lovelace's can be found in the invaluable collected letters, Betty Toole's "Enchantress of Numbers" of course.
But by far the best source for the primary documents around the writing of the notes, as it also includes Babbage's replies and lots of other interesting documents, is this lengthy and expemplary article, sadly behind a paywall: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?arnumber=4639398
By genuine computer pioneer Harry Huskey. It's 30 pages, nearly all of which are full reprintings of all the relevant primary docs, a smattering of necessary background, and a merciful absence of the heavy editorializing that wearisomely burdens nearly everything else written on this subject. With every sincerity I say it is worth all the rest of the books on Lovelace put together. /rant
Two anecdotes, illustrative of Babbage's tremendous charm, high reputation, and amazing ability to shoot himself in the foot.
EDITED TO ADD: This book is now being occupied by the usual despicable copyright squatters on Google Books. Fortunately archive.org has a copy: http://www.archive.org/stream/memoirscorrespo00reid#page/154/mode/2up/
Inventor of the 'self-calculating machine'.. with a penetrating eye, talking about boats.
"To double their numbers and multiply more/ Babbage himself might exhaust all his lore/ As easily reckoned the leaves on the trees..." - Fun poem, certainly shows Babbage as a household name.
In some sort of suffarage meeting (?) from early 1852, "Lady Lovelace, the mathematician" shows up after "Mary Sommerville, the astronomer" in a list of exemplars showing women should have the vote.
Little observation by Babbage analogizing the formation of 'mackerel clouds' to ripples in the sand
I haven't seen this portrait in any of the Ada books-- a little geeky, a little scary, and very Byronic.
No preview and no other public version of this 1844 collection of commonplaces leaves me with just this one phrase-- one that sums up beautifully however the mechanistic anxiety caused by the engine.
Ouch.. harsh but kinda true. Clear, concise, and hard to argue with: Babbage is a genius and we love him, but, WTF?
Enter pg n256 -- sorry about the lack of page links on those archive.org formats. Lovelace's habit of not dating her letters irritates biographers; but her habit of not even signing them has probably led to a great many of them being accidentally lost. I can't find any reference in the biographies to any of the letters which this Dr Malcom seems to be profligately giving away, so I guess they're all gone! I would LOVE to read the one about Martineau's cow. Anyone stumbling across unsigned letters with lots of underlinings is to send them to me immediately.
Babbage as an endless source of punchlines-- designs voting machine.