Charles Babbage was born in 1791 and with a polymath, or someone that was excellent in a number of different subject areas. He was born in London and had a fascination for engineering and mathematics especially. He was one of four children and his father was a prominent banking partner within the city. He is often considered one of the pioneers of computing and the many machines he created were amongst the first mechanical computers. They were never completed during his lifetime, but a complete model in 1991 worked perfectly and it was based on his exact plans.
Charles Babbage Began His Computer in 1822
What Babbage called his computer was a “difference engine.” It was created so that it could calculate a series of values automatically. His design called for a method of finite differences, which meant that multiplication and division would become unnecessary. The first design was never completed because he and the man he brought in to work on the design had a falling out over the costs associated with the construction of the engine.
Had it been completed, the first difference engine would have had over 25,000 different working parts. It would have also been 8 feet tall and weighed at least 15 tons. Babbage worked on improvements to the design, but after the failure of the first one, he never received funding to make the second one. Parts of the original prototype still exist and can be seen in various museums.
What Else Did Babbage Invent?
Although Babbage is seen as the father of computing in many circles, he could also be called the father of modern printing as well. He designed a printer that would work with the difference engine so that it could print out the results of the calculations. Babbage did this because he was extremely frustrated by the amount of errors that were found in mathematical tables. They were calculated by hand and were reliant on the person creating the table. The difference engine, Babbage proposed, would eliminate human error from the equation.
Although the device weighed 2.5 tons, the printer design is remarkably advanced. It can be arranged to print out different columns and the height and space between the columns could be adjusted. The lines on the printer even wrap as it prints the results of the calculation that has been requested through the difference engine.
As modern scientists have constructed the devices from Babbage’s plans, they have noticed several errors that are included in the plans. Instead of being actual mistakes, it is believed that Babbage was concerned about industrial espionage and wanted to avoid having his plans stolen and his work profited from by others.
Charles Babbage was an absolute visionary and if his work had been completed, there is no telling how advanced computers might be today. Even so, his difference engine and printer laid the groundwork for everything that we use today.
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