[squeak-dev] The Old Man

Andres Valloud AVALLOUD at roadrunner.com
Mon Mar 31 03:41:32 UTC 2008

The printer also worked...



Andres Valloud wrote:
> Hello...
> I can't help the feeling that this is derogatory of the work of 
> Babbage on the grounds that he never completed anything.  I thought 
> that without knowing the specifics, it's easy to dismiss the fact that 
> Babbage was trying to do what had not been achieved before.  Moreover, 
> I think it is just as easy to miss the fact that we enjoy about 150 
> years of efficiencies gained in our work processes that were not 
> available at his time.
> I suspected there was something wrong here, particularly from what I 
> had studied about history of mathematics, so I did a little research.  
> From Wikipedia, we find out the following...
> "*Charles Babbage* FRS <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Society> 
> (26 December <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/December_26> 1791 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1791> London 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London>, England 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/England> – 18 October 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/October_18> 1871 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1871> Marylebone 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marylebone>, London 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London>, England 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/England> ^[1] 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Babbage#cite_note-0> ) was an 
> English <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/England> mathematician 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathematician>, philosopher 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosopher>, and mechanical engineer 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanical_engineer> who originated the 
> idea of a programmable computer 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer>. Parts of his uncompleted 
> mechanisms are on display in the London Science Museum 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Science_Museum>. In 1991 a 
> perfectly functioning difference engine 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_engine> was constructed from 
> Babbage's original plans. Built to tolerances achievable in the 19th 
> century, the success of the finished engine indicated that Babbage's 
> machine would have worked. Nine years later, the Science Museum 
> completed the printer <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_printer> 
> Babbage had designed for the difference engine, an astonishingly 
> complex device for the 19th century. Babbage is credited with 
> inventing the first mechanical computer that eventually led to more 
> complex designs."
> In particular,
> "In 1991 a perfectly functioning difference engine 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_engine> was constructed from 
> Babbage's original plans. Built to tolerances achievable in the 19th 
> century, the success of the finished engine indicated that Babbage's 
> machine would have worked."
> Really?...
> But it gets better.  Furthermore,
> "Soon after the attempt at making the difference engine crumbled, 
> Babbage started designing a different, more complex machine called the 
> Analytical Engine <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytical_Engine>. 
> The engine is not a single physical machine but a succession of 
> designs that he tinkered with until his death in 1871. The main 
> difference between the two engines is that the Analytical Engine could 
> be programmed using punch cards 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punch_cards>, an idea unheard of in his 
> time. He realized that programs could be put on similar cards so the 
> person had to only create the program initially, and then put the 
> cards in the machine and let it run. The analytical engine was also 
> proposed to use loops of Jacquard 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacquard_loom>'s punched cards to 
> control a mechanical calculator, which could formulate results based 
> on the results of preceding computations. This machine was also 
> intended to employ several features subsequently used in modern 
> computers, including sequential control, branching, and looping, and 
> would have been the first mechanical device to be Turing-complete 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing-complete>."
> From this, it would appear to be that Lord Moulton missed the point.  
> I wouldn't blame him for that.
> Andres.
> PS: either the 1870 or 1880 US census was the first one done with the 
> assistance of punched cards.  IIRC, it was the 1880 one.
> Marcus Denker wrote:
>> "One of the sad memories of my life is a visit to the celebrated 
>> mathematician and inventor, Mr Babbage. He was far advanced in age, 
>> but his mind was still as vigorous as ever. He took me through his 
>> work-rooms. In the first room I saw parts of the original Calculating 
>> Machine, which had been shown in an incomplete state many years 
>> before and had even been put to some use. I asked him about its 
>> present form. 'I have not finished it because in working at it I came 
>> on the idea of my Analytical Machine, which would do all that it was 
>> capable of doing and much more. Indeed, the idea was so much simpler 
>> that it would have taken more work to complete the Calculating 
>> Machine than to design and construct the other in its entirety, so I 
>> turned my attention to the Analytical Machine.'"
>> "After a few minutes' talk, we went into the next work-room, where he 
>> showed and explained to me the working of the elements of the 
>> Analytical Machine. I asked if I could see it. 'I have never 
>> completed it,' he said, 'because I hit upon an idea of doing the same 
>> thing by a different and far more effective method, and this rendered 
>> it useless to proceed on the old lines.' Then we went into the third 
>> room. There lay scattered bits of mechanism, but I saw no trace of 
>> any working machine. Very cautiously I approached the subject, and 
>> received the dreaded answer, 'It is not constructed yet, but I am 
>> working on it, and it will take less time to construct it altogether 
>> than it would have token to complete the Analytical Machine from the 
>> stage in which I left it.' I took leave of the old man with a heavy 
>> heart."
>> --    Lord Moulton
>> -- 
>> Marcus Denker  --  denker at iam.unibe.ch
>> http://www.iam.unibe.ch/~denker

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