View Full Version : The Ultimate in Real-Life Steampunk: The Difference Engine!

05-27-2008, 06:20 AM
No, not the SF novel of that title, but an actual difference engine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_engine) designed by Charles Babbage over 150 years ago was completed in 1991 by the London Museum of Science under the direction of Babbage expert and its then-Computer-curator Doron Swade. More recently, former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold decided he wanted one, so he spent a million dollars having a second one made. It has recently arrived (http://www.engadget.com/2008/04/21/computer-history-museum-unboxes-a-babbage-difference-engine/) at the Computer History Museum (http://www.computerhistory.org/) in Mountain View, CA, and will be on public display for the next year, then will go into Myhrvold's private collection.

I was just reading a Usenet thread on the device and its display, and others posted several video links of this thing in operation. If you can't go visit to see this (or the one in London) in person, these links are the next best thing:

http://blog.wired.com/gadgets/2008/05/exclusive-video.html (about 4 minutes, Doron Swade gets technical)
http://news.cnet.com/1606-2_3-50002106.html (about 4 minutes, short interviews with Myhrvold and Swade on this new one now on display)

07-26-2008, 07:35 AM
Nice work. And the next step might be to build an imitation of Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine, something likely much more difficult -- a mechanical stored-program computer.

08-07-2008, 02:40 AM
That's pretty sweet.

08-07-2008, 02:44 AM
I remember this announcement. I still need to go. I mean, hell, I live here.

(Sunnyvale, specifically, but close enough.)