Babbage's Difference Engine up close

Babbage's Difference Engine goes on display in the US

  • The Difference Engine uses mechanical gears to calculate polynomial equations

  • The five-ton device actually consists of a three-ton calculator and a printer that weights in at two tons. And it doesn't even collate!

  • The Difference Engine weighs about five tons

  • The bronze, cast iron and steel structure looks like a giant industrial version of a street organ, if street organs were 11-feet long, 7-feet high and had 8,000 parts.

  • Babbage's device is based on the idea that one can create a 'shortcut' for determining a series of successive mathematical values by using Sir Isaac Newton's 'method of differences.'

  • Microsoft's Nathan Myhrvold commissioned and funded the construction of a mechanical calculator based on plans drawn up by British mathematician Charles Babbage in the 1840s. It will be on display beginning May 10 at the Computer History Museum in the US.

  • Babbage finalized his design in the 1840s, but the Difference Engine wasn't built until Swade constructed one in the late 1980s for the London Science Museum

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