Charles Babbage - Difference Engine

Difference Engine

In Babbage's time, numerical tables were calculated by humans who were called 'computers', meaning "one who computes", much as a conductor is "one who conducts". At Cambridge, he saw the high error-rate of this human-driven process and started his life's work of trying to calculate the tables mechanically. He began in 1822 with what he called the difference engine, made to compute values of polynomial functions. Unlike similar efforts of the time, Babbage's difference engine was created to calculate a series of values automatically. By using the method of finite differences, it was possible to avoid the need for multiplication and division.

At the beginning of the 1820s, Babbage worked on a prototype of his first difference engine. Some parts of it still survive in the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford. This prototype evolved into the "first difference engine." It remained unfinished and the finished portion is located at the Science Museum in London. This first difference engine would have been composed of around 25,000 parts, weigh fifteen tons (13,600 kg), and would have been 8 ft (2.4 m) tall. Although Babbage received ample funding for the project, it was never completed. He later designed an improved version,"Difference Engine No. 2", which was not constructed until 1989–91, using his plans and 19th century manufacturing tolerances. It performed its first calculation at the London Science Museum returning results to 31 digits, far more than the average modern pocket calculator.

Read more about this topic:  Charles Babbage

Other articles related to "difference engine, engine":

Ada Lovelace - Biography - Charles Babbage
... Charles Babbage on many occasions, including socially and in relation to Babbage's Difference Engine and Analytical Engine ... met through their mutual friend Mary Somerville Ada became fascinated with his Difference Engine and used her relationship with Somerville to visit him as often as she could ... on Babbage's newest proposed machine, the Analytical Engine ...
The 19th Century - Automatic Mechanical Calculators
... Babbage presented a small cogwheel assembly that demonstrated the operation of his difference engine, a mechanical calculator which would be capable ... The development of this machine, later called "Difference Engine No ... In 1834, Babbage started to design his analytical engine, which will become the undisputed ancestor of the modern mainframe computer with two separate input ...
Bryan Donkin - Career - Difference Engine
... tooling and piece-parts of the difference engine, whose manufacture had been commissioned by Babbage from Joseph Clement ... In 1857 the British government authorized the sum of £1200 for a full-scale difference engine with attached printing apparatus based on the design of Per Georg Scheutz and his son ... Despite the engine's printing unit working badly, the Royal Society and the Astronomer Royal were generally positive when they inspected it on August 30, 1859, expressing their ...
The Difference Engine
... The Difference Engine is an alternate history novel by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling ... computer (actually his analytical engine rather than the difference engine) ...

Famous quotes containing the words engine and/or difference:

    The will is never free—it is always attached to an object, a purpose. It is simply the engine in the car—it can’t steer.
    Joyce Cary (1888–1957)

    Time isn’t so important.... We can say that time is behind us, that we’ve had years together.... I can tell you about a thousand wonderful hours we’ve spent together because I feel we would have, inevitably. And there’s not that much difference between the future and the past.
    Kurt Neumann (1906–1958)