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It's Time To Build the Analytical Engine 127

macslocum writes "John Graham-Cumming is launching a project to finish Charles Babbage's dream and build an Analytical Engine for public display. The goal: inspire future generations of scientists to work on their own 100-year leaps."
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It's Time To Build the Analytical Engine

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  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:2, Informative)

    by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @03:32PM (#33798400)

    All programmable machinery designs. Pascal had a mechanical tabulator, for example.

  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Combatso ( 1793216 ) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @03:33PM (#33798406)
    why, Jacquard's loom ofcourse
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:5, Informative)

    by darkstar949 ( 697933 ) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @03:34PM (#33798416)
    Jacquard looms [] had been around for awhile and used punch cards to control how the machine operated. Likewise, changing the punch cards would allow for a different pattern to be made. However, these were by no means general purpose computers and were also not capable of preforming calculations.
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:3, Informative)

    by hcdejong ( 561314 ) <hobbes AT xmsnet DOT nl> on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @03:48PM (#33798616)

    By that argument, the Colossus and contemporaries were just a logical evolution of the telephone exchange.

    I disagree. Babbage's ideas were out of the blue. So much so that in the 100 years following, no one working on the numerous calculator (and related) projects had the same idea. Babbage was working on a Turing-complete machine a century before Turing put that concept to paper.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @03:55PM (#33798710)

    Yes, that's why the first step is "Figure out what the Analytical Engine is". The idea is that they would look over old drawings, use them where they make sense, and fill in the missing bits with whatever would have been available at the time. It would be *an* Analytical Engine rather than *the* Analytical Engine.


  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:3, Informative)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @07:23AM (#33806334)

    Just that the looms didn't do any math doesn't mean they weren't a a programmable device. Surely realizing that a programmable mechanical machine can be built is one of the steps on the way of figuring out how to make a machine that can solve arbitrary problems.

    The looms are about as programmable as a hydraulic tracing lathe... My mother was interested in looms although not enough to buy something like a full jacquard-style loom, so my info is based on limited personal experience and lots of second hand discussion. People with no experience with those looms, sometimes overestimate the looms ability... Trust me its not like they were writing C# code on those panels, or they ran them thru a compiler or something... Even modern machine tool G-code is staggeringly more advanced and most people will not lower themselves to calling G-code "programming".

    And can it be a complete coincidence that Babbage decided to use the same storage medium?

    Well, frankly, yeah, at that stage of technology it is the only possible solution. So any working solution must be identical, more or less, to all the other working solutions. No mass storage devices from our post-punchcard era had yet been invented...

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