Charles Babbage's Early Computer May Finally Be Built

In 1837, Charles Babbage designed an early computer. He called it the Analytical Engine. Unfortunately, Babbage died before he could build it. But there's a campaign underway to make one using the original blueprints:

Elements of the engine have been built over the last 173 years, but this would be the first complete working model of the machine.

"It's an inspirational piece of equipment," said Mr Graham-Cumming, author of the Geek Atlas.

"A hundred years ago, before computers were available, Babbage had envisaged this machine.

"What you realise when you read Babbage's papers is that this was the first real computer.

"It had expandable memory, a CPU, microcode, a printer, a plotter and was programmable with punch cards.

"It was the size of a small lorry and powered by steam but it was recognisable as a computer."


Link via blastr | Photo: Daily Telegraph

Previously: Andrew Carol's LEGO Difference Engine

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The two replicas currently in existence are versions of his earlier and (relatively simpler) difference engine, designed to calculate polynomials. No, I've no idea what a polynomial is.

I was lucky enough to see the second Engine in the San Jose Computer Museum last year...it really is an amazing piece of engineering. The D.E. is about the size of a fridge, and has a printer attached. The analytical engine, which would be a true computer, would as the article mentioned be much larger. The D.E. is cranked by hand, but the A.E. would require steam, by Jove.

There's a book by Doron Swade which recounts the history of the Difference Engine, its failure, and the struggle to make a replica in the late 20th century.

http://www.amazon.com/Difference-Engine-Charles-Babbage-Computer/dp/0142001449
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There are two Babbage Engines in existence now that look very different from the picture in the article. One is in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. It's amazing to watch it work. It even contains a printer!:

http://www.computerhistory.org/babbage/
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I really hope he does it. Graham-Cumming was the same guy who got the British government to apologize for their mistreatment of Alan Turing so I hope this is another success of his.
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