The Difference Engine: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer

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Viking, 2001 - Biography & Autobiography - 342 pages
16 Reviews
In 1821, Charles Babbage was reviewing a set of mathematical tables with a colleague in preparation for a scientific presentation when, after finding a wealth of errors, he exclaimed in frustration, "I wish to God these calculations had been executed by steam!" With this outburst, Babbage began to envision an end to human errors in the numerical tables upon which finance, trade, science, and navigation relied. The Difference Engine is the fascinating story of his heroic quest, against all odds, to build the first computing machine more than one hundred years before the modern computer we use today was invented. Set against the politics and science of the explosive early Victorian era, The Difference Engine is a thrilling tale of Babbage's exuberant determination. Like Longitude, The Difference Engine is a fascinating portrait of the human story behind a pivotal moment in history and one of the most influential inventions of our time.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - MikeRhode - LibraryThing

Very enjoyable popular accound of Charles Babbage's attempts to build a calculating machine in the early 19th century, and then the Science Museum of London's attempt to build one based on his drawings. Read full review

Review: The difference engine : Charles Babbage and the quest to build the first computer

User Review  - Elisabeth - Goodreads

A fascinating read, as engaging as any novel. Towering intellect, clashes of character, personal drama, and a race against the clock. The author draws his subjects with care and integrity; each ... Read full review


The Tables Crisis
A Personal Question
Tragedy and Decline

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About the author (2001)

Doron Swade, an engineer, technology historian, & leading authority on Charles Babbage, is assistant director & head of collections at London's Science Museum. He is also the mastermind of a six-year project to construct a Babbage calculating engine from original nineteenth-century designs. He lives in Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey, England.

Dr. Martin Campbell-Kelly is Lecturer in Computer Science, University of Warwick, Editor-in-Chief of the Charles Babbage Institute reprint series for the History of Computing, and editor of "Annals of the History of Computing".

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