Mechanical Computer: Babbage pioneers the computing machine
“To err is human but to really foul things up requires a computer” by Farmer’s Almanac
An accomplished mathematician and mechanical engineer, Charles Babbage (1791-1871) combined these two disciplines to create a “difference engine” capable of solving polynomial functions without having to use unreliable, hand-calculated tables.
Despite generous government funding, Babbage sadly never fully finished his difference engine and the project was abandoned in 1834. This did not stop Babbage from thinking about computing, however. In 1835 he released designs for his “analytical engine”, a device similar to the difference engine but which by using programmable punched cards, had many more potential functions than just calculation polynomials. The analytical engine was never built although Babbage produced thousands of detailed diagrams.
Using the lessons learned from the analytical engine, Babbage created a more efficient and smaller difference engine in 1849. Difference Engine No. 2 was not built until 1991 when the London Science Museum completed the machine from the original blueprints and found that it worked perfectly. Babbage’s reputation as a man years ahead of his time was then restored to its rightful place.