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. "
The office I work in is full of things old people buy to make themselves feel young again. I can honestly say that our awesome new toy, The Swagtron T3 Hoverboard, makes me feel very, very old. I’ll explain why later. Swagtron T3 Pros There’s no way to overcharge the battery and that means no […]
One thing that’s consistent among amateur pool players is that they unknowingly stand up during their shots. Just as in golf, pool players need to keep their heads down and stay still after they shoot in order to hit straight. The DIGICUE helps keep shots consistent by letting you know every time you’ve had extra […]
A leaked memo from Apple CEO Tim Cook to his staff explaining why he met with Donald Trump — a guy who called Apple traitors for refusing to defeat their own security — explains the rationale: “tax reform.”
You know as well as I that writing complex, long-long form text requires significant organization. You’re probably also well aware that Word just isn’t up to the task. That’s why I’m a huge fan of Scrivener, the software suite used by best-selling authors and technical writers alike.Scrivener is much more than another digital typewriter. With a […]
Looking to upgrade your weekend? Here are three randomly awesome products on my mind this week.#3 FRESHeBUDS Pro Magnetic Bluetooth EarbudsAs more and more phones and gadgets switch to Bluetooth-only compatibility, you’ll need to get Bluetooth headphones like the rest of us. I’ve been super impressed with these affordable magnetic headphones. Pull the magnetic earbuds apart to auto-connect […]
Traditional folding wallets are designed for paper bills—but these days, carrying cash is rarely a necessity. More often than not, I don’t carry cash at all. This Bogui Clik Wallet is the best answer I’ve found for avoiding the hassle of those tight-fitting credit card pockets.This attractive, minimalist wallet features a protective lip, so my cards don’t […]