Campaign to construct Babbage Analytical Engine picks pace

Written by: Abdul Nisar
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London, Oct 17 (ANI): More than 1,600 people have committed money and support to build Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine.

Although elements of the engine have been built over the last 173 years, a complete working model of the steam-powered machine has never been made.

The campaign hopes to gather donations from 50,000 supporters to kick-start the project.

"It's an inspirational piece of equipment," the BBC quoted John Graham-Cumming, author of the Geek Atlas, as saying.

"A hundred years ago, before computers were available, [Babbage] had envisaged this machine," he said.

Computer historian Doron Swade said that rebuilding the machine could answer "profound historical questions."

"Could there have been an information age in Victorian times? That is a very interesting question," he said.

The analytical engine was designed on paper by mathematician and engineer Charles Babbage. It was envisaged that it would be built out of brass and iron.

Graham-Cumming said: "What you realise when you read Babbage's papers is that this was the first real computer.

"It had expandable memory, a CPU, microcode, a printer, a plotter and was programmable with punch cards.

"It was the size of a small lorry and powered by steam but it was recognisable as a computer."

Although other mechanical machines may predate the Analytical Engine, it is regarded as the first design for a "general purpose computer" that could be reprogrammed to carry out different tasks.

No one has built an entire Analytical engine, although various people, including Babbage's son and Swade, have created elements of it. (ANI)

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