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Researchers Are Reconstructing Babbage's Analytical Engine

Slashdot readerRockDoctor brings an update on a project to build Babbage’s Analytical Engine:

Between 1822 and 1847, Charles Babbage worked on a number of designs for general-purpose programmable computing engines, some parts of which were built during his lifetime and after. Since 2011 a group under the name of "Plan-28" have been working towards building a full version of the machine known as the Analytical Engine. (The group’s name refers to the series of Babbage’s plans which they are working to — versions 1 to 27 obviously having problems.) This week, they’ve released some updates on progress on their blog . Significant progress includes working on the machine’s "internal microcode" (in today’s terminology; remember, this is a machine of brass cogs and punched cards!) [and] archive work to bring the Science Museum’s material into a releasable form (the material is already scanned, but the metadata is causing eyestrain). "One of the difficulties in understanding the designs is the need to reverse engineer logical function from mechanical drawings of mechanisms — this without textual explanation of purpose or intention…" Progress is slow, but real.

Last year marked the bicentennial of Ada Lovelace , who wrote programs for the Analytical Engine and it’s predecessor, the Difference Engine, and whose position as "the world’s first programmer" is celebrated in the name of the programming language Ada .

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