Computer History Museum and the Babbage Engine

The Computer History Museum “is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of computing history.” A current exhibit is a working version of Charles Babbage’s difference engine which is seen as a 19th Century computer design that was never built for a host of reasons from personality to claims that it could not be built with the technology of the time. The man and his machine are described here. One man, Doron Swade, has not only chronicled Babbage’s life of invention, difficulty in working with other people, and on-going quest for a computing machine but built one of the computing machines using methods available in Babbage’s era.

The machine was built, and the story of Nathan Myhrvold’s desire to have one built for him and shipped to the United States is here. Luckily the machine is on display at the Computer History Museum until May, 2009. Here is a video about the machine and the exhibit.

cross-posted at Concurring Opinions

One thought on “Computer History Museum and the Babbage Engine

  1. My impression was that personality was the primary reason it wasn’t built — I think the British government would have worked with Babbage if he hadn’t been so darned persnickety.

    And though, technically, it wasn’t built during Babbage’s lifetime, it actually kind of was.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Per_Georg_Scheutz

    But I actually saw this one, at the Santa Clara Law conference earlier this year which was held at the Comp H Museum. It was breathtaking (for me) to be so close to it. But then they had a PDP-1 set up for Space War, the Johnniac, and all sorts of other incredible vintage machines there. :-)

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