Plans to build Babbage's Analytical Engine
Wednesday, 06 October 2010

Over 100 years after Charles Babbage provided a description of his Analytical Engine, author, journalist and computer scientist, John Graham-Cumming, has ambitious plans to actually build one.

 

He hopes to finish Babbage's dream and build an Analytical Engine for public display and has launched a project called Plan 28 to raise the money and bring together people to work on the Engine.

Plan 28 is a reference to the extensive documentation for the Analytical Engine which Babbage left  in a mahogany case that Babbage had constructed especially for the purpose.



anaengine

The 1910 partial build of the Analytical Engine

According to Graham-Cumming there are three important steps to achieving the goal of a working Analytical Engine:

  1. A decision must be made on what constitutes an Analytical Engine
  2. The Engine should be simulated on a computer to help debug the physical machine
  3. The machine must be built

He writes in his blog:

It might seem a folly to want to build a gigantic, relatively puny computer at great expense 170 years after its invention. But the message of a completed Analytical Engine is very clear: it's possible to be 100 years ahead of your own time.

With support, this type of "blue skies" thinking can result in fantastic changes to the lives of everyone. Just think of the impact of the computer and ask yourself how different the Victorian world would have been with Babbage Engines at its disposal.

If you would like a semi-humorous imagining of what might have been if Babbage had built his machine then see What if Babbage..

Further reading

Ada Lovelace, the first programmer

Charles Babbage

What if Babbage..

 

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