A photo of the Difference Engine constructed by the Science Museum based on the plans for Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 2 by geni
Forget big data:
The project follows the successful effort by a group at the museum to replicate a far less complicated Babbage invention: the Difference Engine No. 2, a calculating machine composed of roughly 8,000 mechanical components assembled with a watchmaker’s precision. That project was completed in 1991.
The new effort — led by John Graham-Cumming, a programmer, and Doron Swade, a former curator at the museum — has already digitized Babbage’s surviving blueprints for the Analytical Engine. But the challenges of building it are daunting.
In the case of the Difference Engine, a complete set of plans existed. The Analytical Engine, by contrast, was a work in progress, as Babbage continually refined his thinking in a series of blueprints. Thus, the hope is to “crowd-source” the analysis of what should be built; plans will be posted online next year, and the public will be invited to offer suggestions.