An enterprising hacker has created a working "difference engine" -- a mechanical calculator first attempted in 19th Century by Charles Babbage -- out of legos. The difference engine was immortalized in the William Gibson/Bruce Sterling collaboration
of the same name, and it's a perpetual source of hacker fascination (Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's daughter, financed the project and invented the idea of software for it because she was interested in handicapping horse races). Though Babbage was never able to get his design working, London's science museum did build a Babbage Engine that worked, thanks to the greater precision of twentieth-century machining techniques.
Andy Carol is a Lego builder who created a working Difference Engine in legos, though his machine "only" solves second- and third-order polynomials to three or four digits. The site contains fascinating detail about the workings of Difference Engines and Carol's implementation thereof.
Update: Paul sez, "The original work by Babbage wasn't
funded by Ada Lovelace, it was funded by the British government. The
original difference engine did work, and quite well - it was able to
provide thousands of corrections to naval tables of the period. While
still developing the difference engine, however, Babbage began to
expand his idea - into the *programmable* analytical engine. This is
the machine for which Ada developed a programming language, however
the work was still funded substantially by the government. Political
issues, not technical limitations, are what ultimately killed the
project. Babbage had no social skills whatsoever, many in the
government hated him. "
David Robinson used the data from the 28,657 people who self-selected to take the Stack Overflow survey to investigate the relationship between programmer pay and the conventions of using either tabs or spaces to mark indents, and found a persistent, significant correlation between using spaces and bringing home higher pay.
It’s the end of an era, sort of: Fraunhofer IIS, the developers of the MP3 audio compression format, announced that they are ceasing their licensing program. In a blog post, spokesman Matthias Rose says that it’s had a good 20-year run and is obsolete. But it’s also true that the decoding patents expired last year, […]
Freddy deBoer writes that he’s been telling the same joke for years about Silicon Valley’s only product, which might be universalized as “At last, a way to verb with nouns on the internet!” But the social-media techopoly is stable, now, and so the venture capitalists have moved on to the three terrible trends that will […]
As the old saying goes, “You should sit in meditation for 30 minutes every day. Unless you are too busy, in which case you should meditate for an hour.” Since most of us have an endless list of things to do and people to see, carving out quiet time can feel impossible, especially when most […]
The Bragi Dash Truly Wireless Smart Earphones are far more than your run of the mill Bluetooth earbuds. While the earpiece design makes these earbuds ideal for exercise and activity, and passive noise cancelling is conducive to a more serene listening experience, these buds go well beyond just playing music.First of all, they can actually […]