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Putting the Babbage Difference Engine to work (photos)

At the Computer History Museum, CNET gets a look at Charles Babbage's computing and printing machine, designed in the 1840s to rid data sheets of human error.

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Scott Ard

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Babbage Difference Engine

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--How's this for a computer: 8,000 parts, 5 tons, 11 feet long and 7 feet tall. Meet the Babbage Difference Engine.

This one, Difference Engine No. 2, was built for former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, who donated it to the Computer History Museum here.

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Precision engineering has resulted in a breathtakingly beautiful calculator that was intended--when conceived in the 1840s--to be driven by steam.
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Senior Docent Tim Robinson explains why a printer was a crucial piece of the machine.
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When creating math tables, errors were commonly introduced at the printing stage so having a printer built right into the machine eliminated another opportunity for human error.
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Form and function.
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The engine and man in motion.

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