Bruce Sterling's been playing with a stack of hand-punched cardboard cards created in 1840 by Charles Babbage as a kind of vaporware app for his never-built Analytical Engine; they were intended to placed in a revolving "six-sided prism."
Sterling analyzes and gives some context and conjecture to the deck, and offers an accompanying Flickr set of photos showing the cards and Babbage's hand-written annotations.
I can’t believe that these merely happen to be random cards that Babbage somehow swept off his desk and then hauled all over Europe. Charles Babbage was an extremely methodical guy.
The cards are not numbered, the have no apparent sequence, and they are of different sizes and materials. It may also be that some have gone missing with time. Still, I think they are a meaningful and deliberate set of closely-related cards, and that they all have one purpose. I am very much wondering what that was.
I can offer a few hints.
First, the long card with the smaller punch-holes is a “number card,” while the many smaller and squarer cards are “operations cards.”
The number card has “Pi” on it, and you’ll note that the numbers of Pi correspond to the pattern of punch-holes in the columns beneath them on the card. That card is not a way to calculate Pi, it’s actually the number, Pi, used as a constant, which is readable by a difference engine.
Charles Babbage left a computer program in Turin in 1840. Here it is. [Bruce Sterling/Beyond the Beyond]
Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra is what happens when a band is fronted by a robot, named SPO-20, and is backed by a mad scientist (ie. a human). San Diego-based Professor B. Miller is that mad scientist and he is giving Happy Mutants the opportunity to view the music video for band’s latest single first. “Sea Anemones […]
In the late 1950s, a truck carrying a cement mixer crashed on E300 Road between Talala and Winganon, Oklahoma. Apparently too heavy for anyone to deal with, the mixer sat for decades where it was occasionally graffitied or whimsically decorated. In 2011, artists Heather and Barry Thomas celebrated their wedding anniversary by transforming the drum […]
In this fun episode of Mark Frauenfelder and Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools podcast, they talk with Lux Sparks-Pescovitz, 14, about his passion for GameBoys, cassettes, DIY sushi, and his new iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit. He’s quite an interesting young man; I’d like to meet his parents someday. Listen here: Cool Tools · 234: Lux Sparks-Pescovitz
Most of us aren’t constantly beset by poor posture. But all it takes is some subtle misalignment while you’re doing serious hours behind the wheel driving or working away at a desk to do a real number on your back. In fact, most of us are so unaware of the mechanics of good posture that […]
From ordering from Amazon to paying bills over the web to something as simple as bottled water, we’re all hooked on modern convenience. We can’t help it. There are just too many modern world advances that save us too much time not to become a creature of comfort and go the easy route. Even if […]
No matter whether you go into the office or work from home, whether you roll out of bed at 5 a.m. or never get up before 9, we all agree a day can on how you feel first thing in the morning when you wake up. If you wake up feeling groggy or out of […]