Charles Babbage is widely celebrated as the first pioneer of the computer. The designs for his vast mechanical calculating engines are one of the startling intellectual achievements of the last century. Babbage is equally famous for two things: he invented computers, and he failed to build them. The reasons for his failures are still hotly debated today and the tale of his woes has become a modern parable. But in the absence of a demonstrably working machine, doubt has clouded his reputation.
Was Babbage an impractical dreamer, or a designer of the highest calibre? Could his engines have been built in the previous century, and if so, would they have worked? The Science Museum built a complete Babbage engine from original designs in time for the bicentenary in 1991 of Babbage's birth. This presentation will describe the project and how it has revised historical perceptions of the great inventor.
Stanford University, NEC Auditorium
Gates Computer Science Building, Room B03