Overview Is it
possible that the ancestor to our modern-day computers was a mechanical
computer powered by gears, levers, and steam? Thanks to the work of the
mathematicians Charles Babbage and Ada Byron in the 1830s, this was, in
fact, the case. The first data storage, processor, and programming
languages came into existence with the design of the Analytical Engine.
The Internet has plenty of information about Charles Babbage and Ada
Byron, as well as the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine, and the
impact they had on modern computer design.
Resources Charles Babbage was considered an eccentric mathematician
during his lifetime. In 1822, he proposed the Difference Engine. Then, in
1834, he began working on the more complex and ambitious Analytical
Engine. For insight into his life and his career, read a biography of
Charles Babbage at www-groups.dcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/.
For a brief but informative description of his work on the Analytical
Engine and the Difference Engine, visit www.maxmon.com/1830ad.htm.
More detailed information about Charles Babbage’s work as an inventor
and a mathematician can be found at The Babbage Pages (www.ex.ac.uk/BABBAGE/).
Ada Byron Information
Ada Byron was a mathematician with whom Charles Babbage collaborated to
develop the Analytical Engine. She is considered to be the founder of
scientific computing. Read a brief biography of Ada Byron at www.sdsc.edu/ScienceWomen/lovelace.html.
Many of Ada Byron’s notes regarding programming and the Analytical
Engine still exist today. Selections from these notes can be read at
either this Yale.edu
page or this Wikipedia
Difference Engine and
Analytical Engine Information Considering the importance of an
invention such as the Analytical Engine, it is no wonder that it’s a
popular topic on the Web. Brief descriptions, and photos of both of
Babbage’s Engines can be found at www.tcf.ua.edu/az/ITHistoryoutline.htm.
Another Web page with photos, illustrations, and diagrams is Babbage’s
Analytical Engine. If you’re looking for
information about the use of punch cards, historical documents, or a
glossary of Babbage’s terms, you’ll find it at www.fourmilab.ch/babbage/contents.html.
Read all about the high-level programming language known as Ada--named
after Ada Byron--by visiting www.adahome.com/History/.
The Charles Babbage
Institute serves as a center for the history of information technology.
Visit this Institute’s Web site (
www.cbi.umn.edu/) to view their collections, exhibits,
research, and computer history resources.