Monday, 3 December 2007

Meccano with a Difference (Engine)

Charles Babbage's "Difference Engine", the first analogue computer, in Meccano.

It would have been possible to make Meccano, a standard construction system of interchangeable parts, from about 1860 - when the first interchangeable part guns were made at Springfield Armory in the USA. It's no stretch to say that it would have been possible to perform codebreaking and ballistics computations at least 75 years before they were in reality, and resource allocation and business computation likewise.

This would have led to advances in both shipbuilding and aeronautics 25 years earlier, and even regular space travel by 1950.

UPDATE: I missed it, but the excellent Melbourne blog Tramtown had an article on this a few weeks ago, and an even earlier post from 2004 with lots more videos. Worth a visit!


Anonymous said...

Wow! And that would have actually made it possible to have one of them at home.

Er. If one wanted to solve polynomials at home, that is. In their spare time.

(I'm just being silly, it's really cool...:)

Anonymous said...

Wikkid construction :D

As to earlier developments, I read somewhere (Simon Singhe in his "The Code Book") that it is rumoured Babbage deliberately stopped his public work because he was working for the UK government in relation to the Crimean War. I have no idea how true this is, though if true then it would be 'form' for the UK government's silliness in this area in light of Churchill's decision to order Colossus and other computers broken up.


Anonymous said...

Wow, what's wrong with your face?
That's one messed up science experiment.