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October 18, 2010

170-year-old steam powered computer to be built?

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by Darren Allan

Charles Babbage was an engineer, mathematician and inventor who designed the very first concept of a programmable computer back in 1837.

His Analytical Engine was a huge steam powered colossus which had a mechanical processor, memory, and it could be programmed using punch cards; if he’d actually managed to build it in his lifetime, that is.

However, it wasn’t until a hundred years later that the first recognised computer was actually produced. Although Babbage did manage to build bits of his creation in the nineteenth century.

But now a new project, entitled Plan 28, aims to build Babbage’s Analytical Engine today, even though it’s something like 13,000 times slower than a ZX81, and has 1.7Kb of memory.

John Graham-Cumming, programmer and author of the Geek Atlas, is behind the campaign, and is asking for donations to support the project.

He needs 50,000 people to pledge a tenner each, and currently some 3,000 folks have signed up. If you want to donate or look at the project in more detail, steam on over to the site here.

Story link: 170-year-old steam powered computer to be built?


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