Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine
On our trip to London I spent some time browsing the Science Museum, which holds many wonders. When I got upstairs I tingled inside at the sight of this beauty. Charles Babbage was a genius who designed a mechanical, base-10 computing device way before the modern computer era. His vision was never built: it was just too hard and expensive and plain old ahead of its time. Finally, in the 1980s, this computer was built based on Babbage’s old designs. A beautiful brass hand-cranked calculating machine! For a modern computer geek this is not unlike seeing a dinosaur brought to life.
UPDATE: O’Reilley’s blog has a great explanation of the difference engine, and links to Plan 28, to reconstruct the original analytical engine! HELL YES!!