Work begins on Babbage's Analytical Engine

Work has gotten underway on Plan 28, a project to create Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine, the never-built successor to the Difference Engine. The Analytical Engine was to have been a general purpose computer, and Ada Lovelace designed the first-ever programming language to run on it. Many factors led to its never being completed — the state of the art in precision engineering in Babbage's day, finance woes, and so forth. John Graham-Cumming, who founded the project, is also the author of The Geek Atlas, a fantastic book.

This has required building relationships with a number of bodies. I recently announced that the project had been accepted into the portfolio of projects handled by the Computer Conservation Society. They will provide expert advice as needed.

The other vital body to work with is The Science Museum in London. Doron and I have been working with The Science Museum team at many levels to ensure that the project is known about and that we would be able to get access to Babbage's plans and notebooks to perform the vital academic study of the Analytical Engine as Babbage imagined it. The first step to doing that research was to digitize the entire Babbage archive. Digitization greatly facilitates research as these precious documents can be viewed conveniently from around the world.

I am pleased to be able to say that The Science Museum agreed that digitization was vital and undertook this project. The work on digitization started on Monday, September 12 and early in October Doron and I will have access to the digitized versions of Babbage's plans and notebooks for study. This great first step on Plan 28 is, finally, underway. We are very, very grateful to The Science Museum and all we have worked with there for their support and for having undertaken this vital work that will benefit not only Plan 28 but all those who wish to study Charles Babbage's work wherever they are.

Plan 28: Analytical Engine project gets underway

(Thanks, John!)

(Image: AnalyticalMachine_Babbage_London, Wikimedia Commons/Bruno Barral, CC-BY-SA-2.5.)