Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine
April 12, 2015 by David T. Allen
One of the core plots for our current work-in-progress, Bitlather Chronicles: Echo Chamber Heist, revolves around a mechanical computer conceived by Charles Babbage in the nineteenth century. It’s too soon to talk about our plot, but I’ve relied on two videos today to help me write realistic details into our chapter, The Mountain Engine.
Here’s a seven minute video that describes Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine:
What the Difference Engine looked and sounded like:
The engine wasn’t built. According to this article on Wikipedia about the Difference Engine, the project failed because Babbage had a mindset that still causes software engineering projects to fail today:
In 1823, the British government gave Babbage £1,700 to start work on the project. Although Babbage's design was technically feasible, no one had built a mechanical device to such exacting standards before, so the engine proved to be much more expensive than anticipated. By the time the government killed the project in 1842, they had given Babbage over £17,000, without receiving a working engine. What Babbage did not, or was unwilling to, recognize was that the government was interested in economically produced tables, not the engine itself. The other issue that undermined the government’s confidence in the difference engine was Babbage had moved on to an analytical engine. By developing something better, Babbage had rendered the difference engine useless in the eyes of the government.