Monday, June 14, 2010

Mechanical Brain

One hundred eighty eight years ago today, June 14th 1822, Charles Babbage proposed a “difference engine" in a paper to the Royal Astronomical Society. The paper was entitled "Note on the application of machinery to the computation of astronomical and mathematical tables". The machine was to be powered by a hand crank and its design ushered in the age of information.

Difference engines (J. H. Mueller 1786) and the Step Reckoner (Wilhelm Leibniz 1672) had been proposed as mechanical logic engines many years before. Babbage's proposal was met with some enthusiasm and even though funding shriveled up before the machine was built the concept of the machine's operation created new ways of imagining the world.

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