At the Computer History Museum they call it The Babbage Engine, but “Difference” was the word Babbage used (as in the result of a subtraction) and I like it better. During a boring part of the Cloud Interop event, I snuck out and took some pictures, because I found it very beautiful.

The Babbage Difference Engine (detail)
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The Babbage Difference Engine (detail)
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The Babbage Difference Engine (detail)
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The Babbage Difference Engine (detail)

It never occurred to me to take a shot of the whole thing; that’s OK, they have some on the Web site linked above, along with video of it working.


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From: Jeffrey (Jan 22 2009, at 20:17)

I hope you got to see it in action; seeing, hearing, and feeling computation manifested in such a tangible physical form was fascinating and beautiful!


From: dbt (Jan 22 2009, at 23:41)

Argh! Were you at the 2pm demo? I was one of those group of guys in the black track jackets.


From: Damian (Jan 23 2009, at 04:44)

Sounds like that difference engine will be returning to the owner in a few months, so hurry if you want to see it. (The first is still on display at the science museum, of course, but that's a bit of a trek for some)


From: Dan Lewis (Jan 23 2009, at 08:19)

Read the book of the same name, The Difference Engine, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling if you haven't already. It is an alternate history where the computer was invented in Victorian England before the advent of modern electronics. It's a treat.


From: Adrian (Jan 23 2009, at 08:56)

Reminds me of the Long Now Clock - another fascinating endeavour of mechanical computing.


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