Charles Babbage

The Charles Babbage connection

Charles Babbage
Charles Babbage (1791-1871) was a prolific English scientist with a
huge range of interests.  Many biographies are available and two
are provided as links below.  Twice he worked on calculating
machines.

  • By 1822 he had completed a design for his Difference Engine - a powerful automatic mechanical calculator with its own formatting printer.
  • By 1870 he had a reasonably consistant set of plans for his very complex Analytical Engine
    - an automatic, programmable calculator. This would have been easy to
    distinguish from a modern computer by the steam engine required to run
    it.  Even in a mechanical embodiment the programming concepts were
    right up to today.

He never completed his "Engines", but he did show that a programmable
calculating device was conceivable. Virtually all the early computer
builders knew of, and referred to his work. His descendants moved to
Australia and NZ, with a demonstration unit of the Difference Engine, which the Powerhouse museum purchased.

Allan Bromley & Matthew Connell at Powerhouse Museum
Demonstration model of the Difference Engine mechanism at the Sydney
Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo, in 1996. Present: Prof. Allan Bromley &
Matthew Connell.

Photo by Max Burnet
Allan Bromley

Professor
Bromley was the world authority on Babbage's engines and he was
involved in this purchase as well as being advisor to the British
Science Museum on the first completed construction of the Difference
Engine in 1991. He retired from the University of Sydney in 2001 and he
was a president of the ACMS.

Matthew Connell

Powerhouse Museum Information Technology Curator and ACMS member.

- John Deane