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Just a pile of cogs, or a proto-computer?

Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine

Just a pile of cogs, or a proto-computer?
19th Century

Mathematician and Engineer Charles Babbage (1791-1871) is considered a ‘father of the computer’ for his work on the Difference Engine; an automatic calculating machine which would perform whole sequences of calculations unattended. Babbage planned an engine that would calculate and print mathematical tables. The work began in the 1820s and continued with government support for 20 years but was never completed.

The Government contributed approximately £17,000 to the enterprise, and Babbage himself £6,000. Construction was almost complete when, as a result of Government recalcitrance, the project was abandoned. Had the engine been finished it would have contained seven columns of wheels, with twenty wheels in each column. The machine would also automatically print the tables calculated by it.
In 1864 Babbage predicted that “As soon as an Analytical Engine exists, it will necessarily guide the future course of the science”.