Who Was Charles Babbage? Introduction The calculating engines of English mathematician Charles Babbage are among the most celebrated icons in the prehistory of computing. Babbage is sometimes referred to as "father of computing.

This admitted, we may propose to execute, by means of machinery, the mechanical branch of these labours, reserving for pure intellect that which depends on the reasoning faculties. Thus the rigid exactness of those laws which regulate numerical calculations must frequently have suggested the employment of material instruments, either for executing the whole of such calculations or for abridging them; and thence have arisen several inventions having this object in view, but which have in general but partially attained it.

For instance, the much-admired machine of Pascal is now simply an object of curiosity, which, whilst it displays the powerful intellect of its inventor, is yet of little utility in itself. Its powers extended no further than the execution of the first four operations of arithmetic, and indeed were in reality confined to that of the first two, since multiplication and division were the result of a series of additions and subtractions.

The chief drawback hitherto on most of such machines is, that they require the continual intervention of a human agent to regulate their movements, and thence arises a source of errors; so that, if their use has not become general for large numerical calculations, it is because they have not in fact resolved the double problem which the question presents, that of correctness in the results, united with economy of time.

Struck with similar reflections, Mr. Babbage has devoted some years to the realization of a gigantic idea. He proposed to himself nothing less than the construction of a machine capable of executing not merely arithmetical calculations, but even all those of analysis, if their laws are known.

The imagination is at first astounded at the idea of such an undertaking; but the more calm reflection we bestow on it, the less impossible does success appear, and it is felt that it may depend on the discovery of some principle so general, that, if applied to machinery, the latter may be capable of mechanically translating the operations which may be indicated to it by algebraical notation.

The illustrious inventor having been kind enough to communicate to me some of his views on this subject during a visit he made at Turin, I have, with his approbation, thrown together the impressions they have left on my mind.

But the reader must not expect to find a description of Mr. Babbage's engine; the comprehension of this would entail studies of much length; and I shall endeavour merely to give an insight into the end proposed, and to develop the principles on which its attainment depends. But as the latter gave rise to the idea of the engine in question, I consider it will be a useful preliminary briefly to recall what were Mr.

Babbage's first essays, and also the circumstances in which they originated. It is well known that the French government, wishing to promote the extension of the decimal system, had ordered the construction of logarithmical and trigonometrical tables of enormous extent. An undertaking similar to that just mentioned having been entered upon in England, Mr.

Babbage conceived that the operations performed under the third section might be executed by a machine; and this idea he realized by means of mechanism, which has been in part put together, and to which the name Difference Engine is applicable, on account of the principle upon which its construction is founded.

On subtracting from each of these the preceding one, we obtain the Second Differences, which are all constant and equal to 2.

We may represent this succession of operations, and their results, in the following table. From the mode in which the last two columns B and C have been formed, it is easy to see, that if, for instance, we desire to pass from the number 5 to the succeeding one 7, we must add to the former the constant difference 2; similarly, if from the square number 9 we would pass to the following one 16, we must add to the former the difference 7, which difference is in other words the preceding difference 5, plus the constant difference 2; or again, which comes to the same thing, to obtain 16 we have only to add together the three numbers 2, 5, 9, placed obliquely in the direction ab.

Similarly, we obtain the number 25 by summing up the three numbers placed in the oblique direction dc: We see then that the three numbers 2, 5, 9 being given, the whole series of successive square numbers, and that of their first differences likewise may be obtained by means of simple additions.

Now, to conceive how these operations may be reproduced by a machine, suppose the latter to have three dials, designated as A, B, C, on each of which are traced, say a thousand divisions, by way of example, over which a needle shall pass. The two dials, C, B, shall have in addition a registering hammer, which is to give a number of strokes equal to that of the divisions indicated by the needle.

For each stroke of the registering hammer of the dial C, the needle B shall advance one division; similarly, the needle A shall advance one division for every stroke of the registering hammer of the dial B. Such is the general disposition of the mechanism.

This being understood, let us, at the beginning of the series of operations we wish to execute, place the needle C on the division 2, the needle B on the division 5, and the needle A on the division 9. Let us allow the hammer of the dial C to strike; it will strike twice, and at the same time the needle B will pass over two divisions.

The latter will then indicate the number 7, which succeeds the number 5 in the column of first differences.

If we now permit the hammer of the dial B to strike in its turn, it will strike seven times, during which the needle A will advance seven divisions; these added to the nine already marked by it will give the number 16, which is the square number consecutive to 9.

If we now recommence these operations, beginning with the needle C, which is always to be left on the division 2, we shall perceive that by repeating them indefinitely, we may successively reproduce the series of whole square numbers by means of a very simple mechanism.

The theorem on which is based the construction of the machine we have just been describing, is a particular case of the following more general theorem: As the differences may be either positive or negative, the machine will have a contrivance for either advancing or retrograding each needle, according as the number to be algebraically added may have the sign plus or minus.

If from a polynomial we pass to a series having an infinite number of terms, arranged according to the ascending powers of the variable, it would at first appear, that in order to apply the machine to the calculation of the function represented by such a series, the mechanism must include an infinite number of dials, which would in fact render the thing impossible.

But in many cases the difficulty will disappear, if we observe that for a great number of functions the series which represent them may be rendered convergent; so that, according to the degree of approximation desired, we may limit ourselves to the calculation of a certain number of terms of the series, neglecting the rest.Admiral Grace Murray Hopper and Lady Augusta Ada Byron Lovelace.

Ada & Grace: Practical Visionaries Imagine a computer programmer who still programs in bits and bytes and has never heard of the terms "bug" or "de-bugging." Then, stretch your mind much further, .

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Ada Lovelace is widely regarded as the very first computer programmer Who was Ada Lovelace? Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was born in London on December 10, , as . The HyperTexts English Poetry Timeline and Chronology English Literature Timeline and Chronology World Literature Timeline and Chronology This is a timeline of English poetry and literature, from the earliest Celtic, Gaelic, Druidic, Anglo-Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman works, to the present day.

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