Famed Babbage machine could come back to life

Campaign under way to use Charles Babbage's original blueprints to create a working version of his steam-powered Analytical Engine, the world's first programmable non-digital computer.

A model of a part of the Analytical Engine built by Charles Babbage, as displayed at the Science Museum in London. Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the 1871 death of Charles Babbage, the English mathematician and inventor credited with conceiving plans for the world's first programmable non-digital computer. It also happens that a move is now afoot to use Babbage's original blueprints to create a working version of his steam-powered Analytical Engine.

The campaign is being spearheaded by blogger and programmer John Graham-Cumming, author of "The Geek Atlas."

Unfortunately for Babbage, he never got to complete his project, although parts of the machine he conceived have been built over the 173 years since he put his ideas on paper. Graham-Cumming now plans to use those original blueprints to construct the truck-sized device. So far, about 1,600 people have pledged to contribute funds to the project, according to the BBC.

"It's an inspirational piece of equipment," Graham-Cumming said. "A hundred years ago, before computers were available, [Babbage] had envisaged this machine."

Babbage's notebooks are housed at the Science Museum in London. For more about Babbage and his ideas, read CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman's coverage of the difference engine , Babbage's predecessor to the Analytical Engine, and check out this video report:

This story originally appeared on CBSNews.com.

 

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