Julia Evans

Like zines about computers? You might love Bubblesort Zines

Hello! As you have probably noticed, I make zines about computers! Sometimes I hear from people who are excited about my zines, and want to show them to their kids! This is cool, but kids aren’t really my target audience, so they’re not always the perfect fit!

So. If you are excited about adorable computer science zines for kids / teenagers (or even for adults!), you should know about Bubblesort Zines by Amy Wibowo! This is an ever-growing (7 and counting!) collection of zines aimed at teenage girls. Teenage girls are smart and curious people who are interested in learning complicated things about science & technology! (and also often like adorable drawings, like, who doesn’t?)

Like when I was 13, I was so interested in learning about programming computers, but I didn’t know where to start! I learned to program when my math teacher gave me a programmable graphing calculator when I was 15.

I’m especially excited today about her Pixel Perfect zine about image processing, which she just released. It’s about:

how Instagram filters work, how a computer can help you dither or simplify an image to recreate it as cross stitch, knitting, or a lego mural, how Snapchat can detect a face to put a flower crown on your head, and other image processing topics!

I don’t know how any of that stuff works! I ordered it and I’m really excited to read it.

awesome zine on how the internet works!

Recently I reread her zine on how the Internet works called “How does the internet” and I remembered how much I loved it, so I wanted to tell all of you how great I think it is and why.

In this 50-page zine, she explains a bunch of old communication methods (like carrier pigeons & torches!), how modern computer networking needs to solve a lot of the same problems (“what happens if messages get lost?”) and some of the details of how computer networking works (“computers address messages to each other using IP addresses!”).

I find the range of topics she covered really impressive:

  • How people used to use carrier pigeons to send messages
  • How the ancient Greeks used torches to spell out messages!
  • Morse code!
  • IP addresses!
  • How data travels over the internet using wires & wireless!
  • The idea of checksums!
  • DNS, TCP, and HTTP!
  • How TCP packets get routed over the internet!
  • HTML!

and she explains all these things in a clear and fun way without dumbing down the ideas. It doesn’t tell you everything about computer networking, but I definitely didn’t understand the basics of how TCP worked when I was teenager learning HTML (or even when I started working as a professional web developer!), and maybe if I did I would have understood better what was happening behind the scenes when I started using HTML and making Geocities sites when I was 14!

❤ smart, friendly, inclusive zines ❤

In addition to explaining complicated+interesting topics in a clear and fun way (which is my favorite thing in the world), I think the mission of her zines is really important. Here’s a quote from the Bubblesort Zines About Us page:

Computer science and programming are powerful tools for expressing creativity and for actuating change. Let’s make sure that these tools & skills are accessible to everyone. […] This means framing computer science in a way that is accessible and inclusive to people who might not think there is a place for them in computer science.

Basically the goal of these zines, as I understand it, is to show people (especially-but-not-only teenage girls) that interesting computer science concepts like encryption, image processing, and computer networking can be for them.

I think that’s really important, and I’m really delighted to see such high-quality explanations presented in a smart and friendly way that’s very different from the traditional way CS material is presented. Often material that’s written for young people gets dumbed down or doesn’t go into all the interesting details, but of course 13-14 year olds can understand a lot of complex concepts, as long as you explain them clearly!

If, like me, you think this is awesome, here are some links:

She’s continuing to produce more awesome zines so it’s worth following her updates!