Babbage's Analytical Engine
"It was at this point, 1834, that Babbage had an idea for a completely different machine -- one that would operate more rapidly and have far more extensive powers than the difference engine. He asked the government whether he should continue with the difference engine or proceed with the new machine. It was eight years before the government advised him that regretfully they must abandon the project. They had spent 17,000 pounds with nothing to show, and Babbage had spent a comparable amount of his own.

Unable to wait for the government decision, Babbage started work on the Analytical Engine, as the new engine was later named. He did not expect to build this machine nor did he expect government support. But, he did believe that a machine with its capabilities would become a reality at a later date, perhaps based on his completed drawings. The Analytical Engine was really the "Grand Vision."

It was to be capable of carrying out any mathematical operation. Instructions would tell it what operation to perform and in what order. It would have a memory with a capacity of one-thousand 50-digit numbers, it would draw on auxiliary functions such as logarithm tables (of which it would possess its own library) and subroutines, it would compare numbers and act upon its judgments, thus proceeding along lines not uniquely specified in advance by the instructions.

All of these abilities sound familiar since they have come to pass in modern computers. But Babbage was attempting to carry them out mechanically with no help from electrical circuits or electronic tubes.

He called his central processing unit "the mill." The separate storage area, the store."

David Weil, Computer Museum of America.

Source: Computer Museum of America.

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