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Plan 28: Project to build Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine — The greatest invention that never was — AKA the Steampunk’s Wetdream

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If life were fair, Charles Babbage’s name would be held high in the pantheon of inventors. Before Thomas Edison was even born the British mathematician had released a paper detailing the schematics for a machine that could have dramatically changed the world — the computer. But Babbage’s machine — powered by steam and programmed by punch cards — was never completed.

As science blogger John Graham-Cumming recently observed in a recent article for O’Reilly Radar:

The British government had initially supported Babbage and covered some of the costs of construction of the first Difference Engine. But as costs rose and years wore on, the government was advised that the machines would be of little use, were unlikely to pay for themselves, and the money expended would have been better invested and the dividends used to hire additional human “computers” to do the work.

Soldiering on alone with the conviction that his machines would be of great benefit to mankind by taking what had been mental effort and making it mechanical, Babbage wrote that “Another age must be the judge” of his inventions.

Simply put, we live in that age.

But Graham-Cumming, for one, isn’t content to just sit back and let the man’s genius go forgotten. He’s started a campaign to build the engine — 173 years after Babbage’s death. To do so, he’s trying to get 50,000 people from around the world to donate $10 or more via his PledgeBank site.

Come on. Ten dollars. That’s like the cost of one drink at bar a Manhattan.

More about the project:

Campaign to build Charles Babbage’s steam-powered ‘Analytical Engine’ – 173 years after he designed it The Daily Mail

One of the great inventions that never was – until now? Campaign for Babbage’s ‘Analytical Engine’ to be built – 173 years after it was devised
— The Independent

Listen to Graham-Cumming talk about the project on This Week in Tech #269.

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