Tuesday, 22 April 2008

The Babbage Myth




Statues of Babbage and Ada Lovelace. The personalities behind a failed project to but a analogue computer.

They myth is that somehow their ideas were not carried through and that if the difference engine of Babbage had been built it would have caused an IT revolution 100 before IBM starting run ads for computers on TV.

Well I have seen a Babbage engine built in London Science Museum when I was working there and spoken to a gentleman who worked on the project. The truth is the difference engine does not work reliably. It can do a few series in a quadratic formula but very soon the parts get caught. In fact the efforts involved in maintaining the machine are far greater than just doing the computations.

Not until Turing learned about vacuum tubes would machine computing as an industry be possible.
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