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It Started Digital Wheels Turning

November 14, 2011

Researchers at the Science Museum in London will attempt to build the Babbage Analytical Engine, a room-size, mechanical, general-purpose computer designed, but never constructed, by Charles Babbage in the 1830s.

The project, led by programmer John Graham-Cumming and former curator of the museum Doron Swade, is expected to take 10 years to complete. The Analytical Engine was a work in progress for Babbage, and he produced various designs for it throughout his life. Graham-Cumming and Swade have already digitized all of Babbage’s blueprints and are hoping to post the plans online next year for public feedback and suggestions.

While the technology doesn’t hold a candle to today’s microprocessors, researchers are hoping that building Babbage’s machine will determine whether the mathematician conceived the first programmable computer a century before Alan Turing presented the idea in its modern form.

“I hope that future generations of scientists will stand before the completed Analytical Engine, think of Babbage and be inspired to work on their own 100-year leaps,” wrote Graham-Cumming in an article for O’Reilly Radar.

Read the full article from The New York Times

Start Date: 
Monday, November 14, 2011