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Introduction To Charles Babbage

Info: 2006 words (8 pages) Essay
Published: 18th Apr 2017 in History

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Charles Babbage is well recognized in the world today for his great transmissible anatomy in the history of computing and as the first computer innovator. Charles Babbage also did extremely well in various philosophical and scientific subjects although his recognition and reputation today lies mainly on his immense mechanical calculating engines he designed and invented.

Who is Charles Babbage?

According to Swade (1991) Charles Babbage was born on the 26th of December 1791 at Walworth road, surrey in south London United Kingdom. Some argued Babbage was born in December 26, 1792 but the rumor was false. Charles Babbage had two brothers and a sister, his father Benjamin Babbage was a very wealthy and reputable banker in his days. Babbage lost two of his brothers in infancy but his sister lived longer than him. In his youth Babbage showed serious interest in algebra and became his own teacher in algebra, in his own days he could interpret most things that were printed or written in the continental mathematics.

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In Charles Babbage’s elementary years he went to a boarding school and has Babbage grew older, in 1810, Babbage went to trinity college, Cambridge University where he was every interested and was involved in mathematics and graduated in 1814. However, in Babbage’s days as a student of Cambridge he played an active role in the operation and formation in a couple of societies. In 1814 at St. Michael’s church in Teignmouth Babbage got married to Georgiana Whitmore without his father approval, the couple lived happily and she gave birth to at least 7 children for Babbage but only three of his children lived to maturity Benjamin Herschel, Henry Prevost and Dugald Bromhead. 1827 was a tragic for Charles Babbage. He lost two of his children (a newborn son and Charles) that same year he also lost his father Benjamin Babbage and his beloved wife Georgiana. Seven year later in 1834 Babbage only daughter died.

Charles Babbage also played a major role in the calculus of functions and worked as a mathematician, two years later in 1816, Babbage was elected a fellow of the Royal Society he was also involved in the development of Cambridge philosophical society Babbage also play an outstanding role in 1820 in the creation of the Astronomical Society which was later named the (Royal Astronomical Society). Tee (1990) In 1828 Charles Babbage became a professor of mathematics at the Cambridge University and was there for up to 11 years 1839 which he never gave a single lecture. It was during that period Charles Babbage first developed the interest in the calculating machinery and for the rest of his life became his consuming passion.

Charles Babbage was multi talented and his also a prolific inventor, a scientist, natural theology, mathematician, engineering designer, geologist, reformer, philosopher, traveler, incorrigible rationalist, political economist, one-time politician, visionary, socialite and also a prolific writer. (Tee, 1990) Charles Babbage also invented flashing lighthouses, games-playing machines and colored lighting for theatres, diving equipment, tree-ring dating, mechanical e-mail, signaling heliographs, shoes for walking on water and submarine navigation all these show that Babbage was a prolific inventor and show Babbage had good writing skills he also has some published works which includes: “Ninth Bridgewater Treatise” which was published in (1837), published in (1826) was “A Comparative View if the Various Institution for the Assurance of Lives” one year later in (1827) he also published “Table of Logarithms of the Natural Numbers from 1 to 108, 000” Also published in (1830) was “Reflection on the Decline of Science in England”.

In the 1820s Babbage saw that in mathematical tables there were high amount of errors in calculations it was unreliable and the hard work of manually checking the tables for errors was another thing. He started thinking of what he could do to solve this human calculating error and Babbage said to himself that ‘he wish to God these calculation had been executed by steam’ (“The Babbage Engine”, 2008).

From this point Babbage began to focus on how he could make counting easier and to calculate number with full accuracy without giving error. Babbage was influenced in 3 different factors his accumulation of knowledge working on logarithmic tables, his dislike of untidiness, and the work of the calculating machines already in existence. He went on his aspirational venture to design and build a vast machine unexampled size and elaborate, mechanical calculating engines and a machine to do away with human error and that was when Charles Babbage came up with his Difference Engine.

The invention of Charles Babbage’s first machine called Difference Engine, was in 1821, and he began to build to this machine that automatically compiles mathematical tables and tabulate mathematical which was fully supported and sponsored by the government. The government made a 1500 pounds advance payment for Babbage to start on his dream to complete the Difference Engine Babbage hired a highly skilled toolmaker and draughtsman called Joseph Clement and they both worked hand-in-hand. The Difference Engine was estimated to have twenty five thousand parts and weigh up to 50 tons. It was during this period in (1827) his father, wife and two children died it was really a devastating moment for Babbage. “Clement downed tools and fired his workmen following a dispute with Babbage over compensation for moving Clements workshop closer to Babbage’s house” (“The Babbage Engine”, 2008). With Babbage’s continuous revisions of design the structure of the Difference Engine was not close to completion and they was an argument about financial issues between Babbage and his chief engineer Clement and the argument put an end to the both of them working together which halted the Difference Engine.

Eleven years after Babbage started the Difference Engine in 1832 the project was still unfinished with just one seventh of machine available in 1833 Babbage got fresh ideas from the Difference Engine and came up with another new invention called the Analytical Engine. The Analytical Engine is technically demanding and is far more ambitious. Babbage set out building up his Analytical Engine, the dispute with Clement was one of the reasons why the Analytical Engine was never built but it was designed to accomplish more complicated mathematical calculations.

The Analytical Machine was said to be a computing general purpose programmable machine.

In 1833 at a party Charles Babbage met the daughter of an infamous British poet Lord Byron, her name was Ada Lovelace she was only seventeen as at that time and she also had some training in mathematic which as at that time it was very unusual for a woman. She was filled with wonder and delight by the small working segment of the machine and in time she showed great excitement and interest to support Babbage’s work. An article was published by Ada Lovelace in 1843 by Luigi Menabrea an Italian engineer which she translated French. Included in her notes were description that describe the steps the mathematical engine will take in solving mathematical problems, it was the first of its kind to be published and those procedures are now what we call programs.

Ada Lovelace speculated that in accordance with rules the machine could generally manipulate symbols and might go beyond numbers. She also saw that the representation of entities other than quantity by numbers could represent notes of music; letters of alphabet and by number manipulations, the computing machines broaden their abilities outside the world of mathematics.

As years goes by Charles Babbage saw how he could modify the design of his Difference Engine by the polished mechanisms of the Analytical Engine. Sometime between 1847 and 1849 Charles Babbage planned and designed a new engine called Difference Engine No.2. This new engine design derives benefits and techniques from the Analytical Engine. The parts of Difference Engine No.2 were 3 times less than Difference Engine No.1 for the same computing corresponding power and also elegant and efficient. The Difference Engine No.2 would weigh 5 tons; consist of eight thousand parts and measure 11 ft long 7 ft high but nevertheless the machine was not attempted to be built by Babbage.

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Charles Babbage committed his prominent fortune and his time towards building the Analytical Engine after 1856, Babbage never saw any of his designs completed. A Swedish printer called George Scheutz, successfully constructed a machine in 1854 that was established on the designs for Charles Babbage’s difference engine. Though Henry Prevost Babbage one of Charles Babbage’s son continued his work after his death in 1871, he was also unsuccessful and did not complete the Analytical Engine.

What is the Difference Engine?

Charles Babbage in 1821 designed the Difference Engine No.1. The Difference Engines of Charles Babbage are strictly calculators. The crunching of numbers by adding repetitions agreeing to the method of finite differences. The engines are based on mathematical principle that’s why they are called the Difference Engine. The outstanding example of its kind of method is that it removes the need for division and multiplication which are harder to implement mechanically and it uses only arithmetical additions but nevertheless general arithmetical calculations cannot be used on the machine.

The Difference Engine also detects its Decimal, Error-detection and Binary (“The Babbage Engine”, 2008). Babbage’s engines uses the ten numbers that we are familiar with ‘0’ to ‘9’ which makes them decimal digital machines in the sense that it only recognize whole numbers as valid. On the gear wheel they are representation of number values and every wheel has its own digit of a number each. The error-detection is when calculation has been compromised. If a wheel remains on a particular position around the middle of a scale of evaluation the value will not be precisely determined Babbage designed his engine to jam when such an incident occurs. He also included binary and number bases 3, 4, 5, 12, 16 and 100. It was due to engineering efficiency that was why settled for decimal for everyday familiarity and the reduction of moving parts.

Charles Babbage started with the Difference Engine No.1 in 1821 the vast machine was designed for calculations and to tabulate multinomial functions. The description of the machine design is to print results automatically in a table from the calculations from series of values (Swade, 1991). In 1824 Babbage’s largest practical ventures kicked off and machine called for an estimated twenty five thousand (25,000) parts divided evenly between the printer and the calculating section. The machine would have weighed up 50 tons if it had been built and measured 8 ft high 7 ft long and 3 ft deep (2.4*2.1*0.9 m).

“Charles Babbage was not the first to suggest a printing calculator nor was he the first to consider method of differences as a suitable principle upon which to base a calculating machine” (Swade, 1991). This distinction belongs to an engineer and master builder called Johann Muller (1746 – 1830). Between 1847 and 1849 Babbage had a complete design of Difference Engine No.2 This Engine can tabulate up to the seventh order of polynomial and calculates with number 31 digits long and requires 3 times less the parts than the previous Engine. A simple design for the same computing power as Difference Engine No.1. Babbage Never made any effort to build his Difference Engine No.2 and it was not completed in metal like all his other designs.


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