Communion Of Dreams


Viva la difference!
December 10, 2009, 12:49 pm
Filed under: Art, movies, NPR, Science, Steampunk, tech

Most geeks already know about Charles Babbage‘s Difference Engine, but there was a nice piece on NPR this morning about it:

Charles Babbage, the man whom many consider to be the father of modern computing, never got to complete any of his life’s work. The Victorian gentleman was a brilliant mathematician, but he wasn’t very good at politics and fundraising, so he never got the financial backing to finish any of his elaborate machine designs. For decades, even his fans weren’t certain whether his computing machines would have worked.

But Doron Swade, a former curator at the Science Museum in London, has proven that Babbage wasn’t just an eccentric dreamer. Using nothing but materials that would have been available to Babbage in the 1840s, Swade and a group of engineers successfully built Babbage’s Difference Engine — and a version is now on display at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

Having just watched “Longitude” about the construction and restoration of the first functional marine chronometers (and having seen reproduction of same at Greenwich), this seems, er, timely.

Jim Downey


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