Thursday, March 3, 2011

Babbage located intelligence in the Mind, not the attentive crafting Body

Charles Babbage was born in London, England December 26, 1791. Babbage suffered from many childhood illnesses, which forced his family to send him to a clergy operated school for special care.

As an undergraduate, Babbage setup a society to critique the works of the French mathematician, Lacroix, on the subject of differential and integral calculus. Finding Lacroix's work a masterpiece and showing the good sense to admit so, Babbage was asked to setup a Analytical Society that was composed of Cambridge undergraduates.

He began to design a "difference engine" in 1821 which was a very large and complicated machine intended for doing logarithmic calculations automatically.

The device was based on the principle that the difference between certain values of the expression at a certain stage becomes constant. But it was difficult to make the machine parts accurate enough to prevent errors to occur, using the technology available at that time.
Encouraged by the work of "difference engine", he began design of another machine "the analytical machine", which could carry out many different types of calculations. Analytical engine used the concepts of Automatic Loom and Difference Engine.

The Analytical machine had five units- input, output, store, mill, and control. Store was used for storing numbers and Mill was used to do the calculations by rotation of gears and wheels. Control unit did the job of supervision of all other units. Note that these five units are similar to the functional units of a modern digital computer.No wonder he was called the "Father of Computers"!

Written Works:
  • A Comparative View of the Various Institutions for the Assurance of Lives (1826)

  • Table of Logarithms of the Natural Numbers from 1 to 108, 000 (1827)

  • Reflections on the Decline of Science in England (1830)

  • On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (1832)

  • Ninth Bridgewater Treatise (1837)

  • Passages from the Life of a Philosopher (1864) .           

"The whole of the developments and operations of analysis are now capable of being executed by machinery. ... As soon as an Analytical Engine exists, it will necessarily guide the future course of science."
---Excerpt from the Life of a Philosopher


Akash Mondal

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