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1. Observations on the temple of
$122.00
2. Charles Babbage on the Principles
$28.50
3. Charles Babbage: And the Engines
 
4. Charles Babbage, Father of the
$26.29
5. Charles Babbage and the Story
$108.59
6. Charles Babbage: Pioneer of the
 
$40.00
7. Charles Babbage: Passages from
$1.35
8. Shooting the Sun
 
9. Computers: From Babbage to Fifth
 
10. Doing Our Babbage
$10.03
11. Charles Babbage (Groundbreakers)
12. Science and Reform: Selected Works
 
13. The Mathematical Work of Charles
$64.97
14. Memoir of the Life and Labours
$49.23
15. The Difference Engine: Charles
 
16. LITTLE ENGINES THAT COULD'VE (Harvard
 
17. Charlz Bebidzh, 1791-1871 (Nauchno-biograficheskaia
 
18. Passages from the Life of Philosopher
 
19. Mr. Babbage's Secret: The Tale
 
$196.00
20. William Whewell (Pioneers in Economics)

1. Observations on the temple of Serapis at Pozzuoli near Naples; with an attempt to explain the causes of the frequent elevation and depression of large portions of the earth's surface in remote periods, and to prove that those causes continue in action at the present time. With a supplement. Conjectures on the physical condition of the surface of the moon
by Charles, 1791-1871 Babbage
 Paperback: Pages (2009-10-26)

Asin: B003O6P9TE
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2. Charles Babbage on the Principles and Development of the Calculator and Other Seminal Writings
by Charles Babbage
Paperback: 400 Pages (1984-06)
list price: US$9.95 -- used & new: US$122.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0486246914
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Editorial Review

Amazon.com Review
As of late 1996, this is the most readily available collectionof writings of Charles Babbage, the discoverer of the principles onwhich all modern computing machines are based. Includes passages fromhis autobiography, and more technical writings about his"Difference Engine" (the subject of a great science fictionnovel by Bruce Sterling), an essay on lockpicking (proving that the MIThackers of the 1950s were not the precedent-setters they might think!), and evenuniquely 19th-century passages such as a descrition of how hetransported six blind salamanders while travelling around Europe. Anessential volume for anyone seriously interested in the history of thecomputer. ... Read more


3. Charles Babbage: And the Engines of Perfection (Oxford Portraits in Science)
by Bruce Collier, James MacLachlan
Hardcover: 128 Pages (1999-01-07)
list price: US$32.95 -- used & new: US$28.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0195089979
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Traces the life and work of the man whose nineteenth century inventions led to the development of the computer. ... Read more


4. Charles Babbage, Father of the Computer
by Daniel Stephen Halacy
 Hardcover: Pages (1970-04)
list price: US$4.95
Isbn: 0027413705
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5. Charles Babbage and the Story of the First Computer (Uncharted, Unexplored, and Unexplained)
by Josepha Sherman
Library Binding: 48 Pages (2005-09-08)
list price: US$29.95 -- used & new: US$26.29
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1584153725
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In 1815, there weren’t any computers. Electricity hadn’t yet been discovered as a way to make things run. Calculating sums of numbers had to be done by hand. One mistake would mean adding everything up all over again. But English scientist Charles Babbage was planning to change all that. He planned to use his knowledge of mathematics and engineering to build a machine that would be able to work out the most complicated sums instantly. But someone would have to give it the right program to follow. Women weren’t supposed to know mathematics in his day. But Ada, Countess of Lovelace, was one of the best mathematicians. She became the first computer programmer. And Charles Babbage could become the father of computing—if only he could overcome the biggest problem of all. It wasn’t the lack of electric power. It wasn’t the lack of modern equipment. Before he could succeed, Charles Babbage had to conquer the greatest problem of all—himself. ... Read more


6. Charles Babbage: Pioneer of the Computer
by Anthony Hyman
Hardcover: 287 Pages (1982-07)
list price: US$42.00 -- used & new: US$108.59
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0691083037
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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304, plates, figures. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars Babbage as a man of extraordinary breadth
While Babbage is rightly mentioned in any book covering the history of the computer, he is often wrongly presented as somewhat of a crank. His life is generally described as that of a genius whose ideas were far ahead of the times and as a person who spent enormous amounts of personal and public funds in single-minded attempts to build machines that never worked. In fact, he was a man of extraordinary breadth and depth of interest, and his original difference engine worked very well. Furthermore, it can be strongly argued that the economic gains due to the fast and precise computations performed by his difference engine and the improvements in machining accuracy more than returned the public investment in the project.
Hyman does an excellent job in describing the totality of the life of Babbage. Even though I have read a great deal about the history of computing, until I encountered this book I had no idea that he was also a talented commentator on the social, economic and political changes taking place in England at that time. The industrial revolution was in high gear and Babbage was one of the leaders. His interests in all things mechanical are well documented as well as his numerous writings.
Babbage was also an experimental scientist who constantly discussed improvements with those who were making them. At the time, most of the mechanical improvements were being made by people with little formal education, but with a great deal of practical experience. The majority of the members of the scientific establishment were reluctant to get their hands and bodies dirty by entering the factories, but Babbage never hesitated. He was also very instrumental in the creation and expansion of scientific societies, although he also wielded a very caustic pen in describing the pompous irrelevance of some of the members.
Babbage also commented extensively about the relationship between the owners of the factories and the workers. His approach was to examine the problem in a scientific manner, largely refusing to take any side based on emotion. Many of his comments emphasize cooperation between the two groups and one can see some of the modern concepts of revenue sharing, worker ownership of stock, employee training and benefits. Babbage's writings were very influential and controversial, they were a strong influence on Karl Marx and Frederich Engels, who took a quite different approach. He was also an advocate of free trade and foresaw much of what went wrong in the British Empire.
Charles Babbage has always had a place on my list of technological heroes, but after reading this book, he has been allocated a higher rank. He was a man with a great deal of understanding of how English and western societies were changing and many of his fundamental ideas of computing were over a century ahead of his time. Given the enormous economic benefits of the computer, had all of his projects been funded to completion, England may have remained an industrial powerhouse well into the twentieth century.

Published in the recreational mathematics e-mail newsletter, reprinted with permission.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Superb Read; Not What I Expected
I read this book last year (2000) after reading a book of Ada Lovelace's letters (mostly to Babbage). I had purchased my hardcover copy at the Computer Museum in Boston MA back in the late 80's or early 90's, but had not read it because it looked daunting and dry. Was I wrong! This book is very readable and utterly fascinating; in fact a page turner that I could hardly put down. I've been looking for a softcover (or even another hardcover) for some time, so I could loan to friends. How delighted I am to find one! Babbage was a fascinating character and this book not only illuminates the man but also the times and the politics and the other fascinating technological events and efforts of the day. The discussion of the "great gauge wars" (the fight for the "ideal" width for railroad tracks) and Babbage's involvement was delightful. It appears he may have invented the first working strip chart recorder. This book was delightful and I got so involved with Babbage that I cried when his death occurred and the book ended. He was a giant among scientists and yet was frustrated all his life, by petty politics and short-sighted politicians, in the effort to build his stupendous and wondrous machines. A wonderful story, full of technological history. Other highlights: descriptions and pictures of the machines (of course); description of the effort to build a tunnel under the Thames river (by the the Jr and Sr Brunels); Babbage's methods (at times he did all phases of the work for his projects) and his workshop; his notes on working out the operation of the machines; family life; involvement in the technical societies of the day. (The book of Ada Lovelace's letters is also highly recommended if this is an interesting area for you.)...

5-0 out of 5 stars The Computer was Invented well before Reticulated Electricit
In the early 19th century, a moderately well-off and very well educated Englishman dreams up an elaborate calculating machine for doing log and trig tables. When he begins this project, the railroad and the telegraph do not yet exist. The machine tools and manufacturing methods of the day are not up to the task, so the Englishman pushes out the envelope. He more or less succeeds in building his machine, but the British government is not interested.

The inventor goes back to the drawing board, and dreams up a much more elaborate machine, still all mechanical and steam driven, that essentially embodies all the abstractions of a von Neumann machine. Data and instructions are fed to it via punched cards. His collaborator for a number of years, and the author of the best description of the machine and what it can do, is Byron's daughter. The inventor is well known to all intellectual Britons of his day, including Charles Dickens. The inventor even realises that Boolean algebra may prove important for the sort of machine he is struggling to build. The Italian government is fascinated. But the British government again cannot be bothered, and thus refuses to fund the first computer. And so all that we have are hundreds of detailed blueprints.

The above, and more, is a true story, told in this remarkable book. After this book was printed, IBM paid to have Babbage's machine built by a Swedish team. It works as Babbage expected it to, and is exhibited in the IBM museum in Armonk NY. ... Read more


7. Charles Babbage: Passages from the Life of a Philosopher
by Charles Babbage
 Paperback: 383 Pages (1994-05)
list price: US$27.00 -- used & new: US$40.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0813520665
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8. Shooting the Sun
by Max Byrd
Paperback: 320 Pages (2004-10-26)
list price: US$12.00 -- used & new: US$1.35
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0553583697
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Charles Babbage was an English genius of legendary eccentricity. He invented the cowcatcher, the ophthalmoscope, and the “penny post.” He was an expert lock picker, he wrote a ballet, he pursued a vendetta against London organ-grinders that made him the laughingstock of Europe. And all his life he was in desperate need of enormous sums of money to build his fabled reasoning machine, the Difference Engine, the first digital computer in history.

To publicize his Engine, Babbage sponsors a private astronomical expedition—a party of four men and one remarkable woman—who will set out from Washington City and travel by wagon train two thousand miles west, beyond the last known outposts of civilization. Their ostensible purpose is to observe a total eclipse of the sun predicted by
Babbage’s computer, and to photograph it with the newly invented camera of Louis Daguerre.

The actual purpose, however…

Suffice it to say that in Shooting the Sun nothing is what it seems, eclipses have minds of their own, and even the best computer cannot predict treachery, greed, and the fickle passions of the human heart.


From the Hardcover edition. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

3-0 out of 5 stars Average Historical Fiction Fare
Max Byrd has been on my list of Historical Fiction writers to read for quite some time.I've run across several recommendations of his Presidential works and so when I stumbled across this book I assumed it would serve as a nice introduction to his work and a quick and enjoyable read.

Overall, that did indeed prove to be the case and overall the book read fairly smoothly, held my interest and provided me with some insights both to the geography and history of the areas concerned.The book itself is a bit more fiction than history in terms of the plot.The primary characters for the most part interact and brush against true historical figures and some insight is gained into some of the early science of photography.The plot itself while plausible, does not reflect much in the way of reality.The build up to the final resolution seemed to go by much more quickly than necessary to have missed an opportunity for more time and effort to bring it to a more satisfactory conclusion.

Nevertheless, Max Byrd is demonstrated to be a capable writer and I am encouraged to read his other Presidential Books in hopes that his reputation will be lived up to within those pages.

In short, this was certainly not the worst Historical Fiction I've ever read, but even so, it was not the best either.

3 Stars and a recommendation for a fast paced and easy to read story from a capable writer.

2-0 out of 5 stars Slow and inaccurate
Max Byrd's novel contains more research than drama, and unfortunately not all the research is accurate. At the end of Chapter 12 and the beginning of Chapter 13, he has his heroine Selena, a daguerrotypist accompanying an expedition to make a record of an eclipse in the southwestern US in 1839, make a demonstration of her work. She exposes her plate for ten minutes, which is accurate and then removes the copper plate from her camera, preparing to develop it. Unfortunately, the plate is miraculously transformed into a glass plate (not to appear in photography until the advent of ambrotypes, some years later)before the image is formed. I hoped very much to be informed and entranced by this book, with its cover blurbs promising involvement with Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, inventors of the first computer. Unfortunately, Babbage and Lovelace make only cameo appearances, and the novel's main characters tend to blur together, except for Selena, a product of a French father and American mother. The research was, as I say, ambitious but flawed.

3-0 out of 5 stars Great premise, but...
In selecting as his subject a fictional trek across the early American West, Max Byrd took a step away from his habit of writing about presidents, as he did in Jefferson, Grant, and Jackson.It seems, however, that he's not as adept without the unifying theme of the great man.

The jacket copy convinced me to move this one to the top of my reading list--it's got Charles Babbage, the pre-computer computer-maker, eccentric extrordinaire, and a wild cast of characters.Babbage's business partner arranges for an expedition to, ostensibly, observe a solar eclipse which will, incidentally, prove the worth of Babbage's machine.

There's a great book in a premise like that one, but Byrd didn't write it.There's a lot about squabbling among the expeditioners; there's a lot about people convinced and unconvinced of Babbage's wisdom and his machine's value.Ultimately, the novel tries to cover so much--1830s Britain; early computing machines; 1830s Washington, D.C.; hostile Natives in the West--that Byrd's 300 pages can't cover it all.Another 100 pages may have been enough to make this a compelling historical novel; as it is, I strongly recommend reading Byrd's "Jackson" instead.It's a longer, more specific novel on roughly the same time period, and it's much more expertly executed.

4-0 out of 5 stars engaging and intriguing read
Shooting the Sun follows a group in 1840 as they head out on the Santa Fe trail to try and photograph for the first time (actually a more advanced form of daguerreotype) a solar eclipse so as to prove the effectiveness of Charles Babbage's prototype "difference engine", an early "computer" used to predict the timing and place of the eclipse. The proof will then allow Babbage to garner more funds to continue to develop his early calculator. The group is made up of Selena Cott, the young female astronomer/photographer who must overcome the obvious hurdle of her gender; William Pryce, Babbage's financial adviser and a man who has his own reasons for coming along; the expert explorer who sees no place for a woman in the wild; the young artist who scoffs at photography's ability to do any more than capture the sterile surface; the expert astronomer who is threatened both by technology and feminism; and the gruff wagon leader who tries to get them to Santa Fe alive past rough frontier folk, prairie fires, hostile natives, equipment prone to breakdown, their own infighting, and the sheer lost loneliness of the west. Added to the mix in shifts of perspective and geography are Babbage himself as he wends his way through London society and finance and his uncle Richard, who is thought to be dead (though not officially meaning Babbage can't claim his estate) but is actually alive and living with the natives out west.
The characters are strongly portrayed in sharp human detail and grow with the book and their experiences, rather than remaining static creations. Relationships form and erode, trust is offered and broken, strengths and weaknesses are transformed. The journey itself is meticulously detailed and conveys both the sheer wonder and sheer terror of such a journey at the time. One understands clearly both the travails and the reward.
There is a rich mixture of personal conflict over culture, gender, generation, philosophy, sexuality, professionalism, and art. This, combined with the early hints that not everything is as it seems and that some of the characters are carrying secrets creates a wonderful tension throughout the entire work.
The book succeeds in many ways, as history, as travelogue, as character exploration, even as a mystery/suspense novel (though to a lesser extent). By the end, you're sorry to have the journey come to a close. A strong recommendation.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Unforgettable Adventure
Byrd has created a thrilling story, rich with historical details and unexpected twists, and I had a hard time putting it down.This is a wonderfully crafted novel and one that continues to play in your imagination after the last page is read. TERRIFIC and highly recommended!! ... Read more


9. Computers: From Babbage to Fifth Generation (History of Science)
by Ron Schneiderman
 Library Binding: 63 Pages (1986-04)
list price: US$10.40
Isbn: 0531101312
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Product Description
Traces the history of computers from the earliest calculating machines to current stages of development with artificial intelligence. ... Read more


10. Doing Our Babbage
by Ira Slobodien
 Hardcover: 279 Pages (1992-02)
list price: US$24.95
Isbn: 096310621X
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11. Charles Babbage (Groundbreakers)
by Neil Champion, Charles Babbage
Library Binding: 48 Pages (2000-10)
list price: US$31.43 -- used & new: US$10.03
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1575723670
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A biography of Charles Babbage. As well as providing his life story and analysis of his work, the text places his achievements in context by looking at the technological and historical context of the time. The book includes quotes and writings from newspapers and journals of the time; a look at the ongoing impact of his work; and information about his rivals and the men and women who affected his life and work. ... Read more


12. Science and Reform: Selected Works of Charles Babbage
by Charles Babbage
Hardcover: 364 Pages (1989-06-30)
list price: US$125.99
Isbn: 0521343119
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Charles Babbage, considered the founding father of the computer, was a key figure during a great era of British history.Best remembered for his pioneering work on analytical and difference engines, the forerunners of the modern computer, Babbage was also an active campaigner for reform in both science and society.Babbage's wide-ranging interests ran from economic theory and statistics, to lighthouse signalling and postal services.His book, Reflections on the Decline of Science in England and Some of its Causes (1830) reflected his attempts to reorganize and control the conduct of scientific activity at a national level.In addition, he published widely on theoretical and practical science and social reform.In this book, Anthony Hyman, the acknowledged expert on Babbage's life and work, has selected passages from these many publications--reflecting his innovative scientific work and his thoughts on such subjects as taxation, abolition of life peerage and the assurance of lives--subjects which anticipated the preoccupations of present day society. ... Read more


13. The Mathematical Work of Charles Babbage
by J. M. Dubbey
 Hardcover: 243 Pages (1978-02-28)
list price: US$74.95
Isbn: 0521216494
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Charles Babbage (1791-1871) is today remembered mainly for his attempt to complete his difference and analytical engines, the principles of which anticipate the major ideas of the modern digital computer. This book describes the evolution of Babbage's work on the design and implementation of the engines by means of a detailed study of his early mathematical investigations. Babbage is an almost legendary figure of the Victorian era, yet relatively little is known about him and no authoritative account of his life and work has appeared. He was primarily a mathematician and his early working life was devoted mainly to the study of pure mathematics. While containing much biographical information, this book concentrates on this crucial aspect of Babbage's work. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the best books on Charles Babbage
In the process of doing research on Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace and writing "Ada, The Enchantress of Numbers" I had the good fortune to read this book.It is intelligent, thoughtful, and discusses not only Babbage's mathematical work but gives insight into the process of discovery.It is a gem. ... Read more


14. Memoir of the Life and Labours of the Late Charles Babbage Esq. F.R.S. (Charles Babbage Institute Reprint)
by H. W. Buxton
Hardcover: 425 Pages (1987-12-04)
list price: US$75.00 -- used & new: US$64.97
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0262022699
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Written but never published during his lifetime, this memoir of the founding father of computing is an indispensable primary source of information about Babbage's personal character and work. It brings to light his astonishingly wide range of interests, from mathematics to political economy and social reform, and dispels the myth of an "irascible" and "eccentric" personality, helping to clarify Babbage's position in the history of science.Buxton's memoir was written between 1872 and 1880 and is volume 13 in the Charles Babbage Institute Reprint Series for the History of Computing. ... Read more


15. The Difference Engine: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer
by Doron Swade
Hardcover: 352 Pages (2001-09)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$49.23
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Asin: 0670910201
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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In 1821, Charles Babbage was reviewing a set of mathematical tables with a colleague in preparation for a scientific presentation when, after finding a wealth of errors, he exclaimed in frustration, "I wish to God these calculations had been executed by steam!" With this outburst, Babbage began to envision an end to human errors in the numerical tables upon which finance, trade, science, and navigation relied. The Difference Engine is the fascinating story of his heroic quest, against all odds, to build the first computing machine more than one hundred years before the modern computer we use today was invented.

Set against the politics and science of the explosive early Victorian era, The Difference Engine is a thrilling tale ofBabbage's exuberant determination. Like Longitude, The Difference Engine is a fascinating portrait of the human story behind a pivotal moment in history and one of the most influential inventions of our time.Amazon.com Review
What a difference a century makes. Doron Swade, technology historian and assistant director of London's Science Museum, investigates the troubles that plagued 19th-century knowledge engineers in The Difference Engine: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer.

The author is in a unique position to appreciate the technical difficulties of the time, as he led a team that built a working model of a Difference Engine, using contemporary materials, in time for Babbage's 1991 bicentenary. The meat of the book is comprised of the story of the first computing machine design as gathered from the technical notes and drawings curated by Swade. Though Babbage certainly had problems translating his ideas into brass, the reader also comes to understand his fruitless, drawn-out arguments with his funders. Swade had it comparatively easy, though his depictions of the frustrating search for money and then working out how best to build the enormous machine in the late 1980s are delightful.

It is difficult--maybe impossible--to draw a clear, unbroken line of influence from Babbage to any modern computer researchers, but his importance both as the first pioneer and as a symbol of the joys and sorrows of computing is unquestioned. Swade clearly respects his subject deeply, all the more so for having tried to bring the great old man's ideas to life. The Difference Engine is lovingly comprehensive and will thrill readers looking for a more technical examination of Babbage's career. --Rob Lightner ... Read more

Customer Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars Charles Babbage: Victorian Era Technologist
Author, engineer, visionary, genius.Charles Babbage.The man born to lead humankind into a utopian era propelled by automatic computation machines.But by some cosmic prank he was born not at the first glow of the electrified age, but much earlier in a coal-fired industrial age in which neither precision production machine tools nor even the standard screw thread existed.And electricity?The triode, the fundamental active device at the root of the electronics big bang, was just being nudged to life a full generation after Babbage's death.Today, countless bits of silicon at our fingertips and spread across the globe and above our heads pulse with programs which manage everything from communications to transportation to entertainment.Inspiration for our globally connected engineers and scientists springs from the incredible developments in communications, analytical tools, and nano and bio-technologies.Babbage's muse was a Victorian lady adorned in steam power.
Author Doron Swade's description of the analysis of Babbage's drawings and of the trials engaged in the actual modern day build of Difference Engine #2 leaves me with a bit of a sense of sorrow for old Charles.It just doesn't seem plausible that he could have pulled this off had he a dozen 19th century lifetimes.Production of the thousands and thousands of precision mechanical parts needed for the construction of his machine would have challenged the industrial capacity of Babbage's day.And even if all the parts had been delivered, did he foresee the time required for the assembly and testing of the machine?The author experienced that the modern day building and debugging of the engine proceeded slowly and with numerous fits and starts.Additionally, Charles may have been flawed with an inability to maintain a consistent focus on the development of his difference engine; he puttered with incessant design changes and was often distracted by any number of scientific developments occurring in his lifetime in the middle half of the 19th century.But his genius and sense of mortality drove him to the only workable solution, that being the preparation of detailed mechanical drawings for a subsequent generation of enthusiasts to discover and execute.So whatever sorrow I felt is now displaced by respect for someone who retreated from his dogged passion for assembling and publicly operating his computational engine into the more solitary labor of transferring his concept to a full set of mechanical drawings.These were the drawings which author Swade and his team used to build the machine nearly a century and a half later.
This is an interesting and educational read for anyone curious about the state of technology and the associated politics in Victorian times.The reader will meet personalities who will be remembered because we have honorably linked their names to important developments including screw threads (Whitworth), a software language (Ada), and a space telescope (Herschel).
So, no, today's world is not driven by fleets of "Babbage engines".He could not have foreseen a future reliant on millions of transistors modulating nano-amps on a device smaller than your thumbnail, and these devices replicated by the millions in our cars, phones, iPods, and dishwashers.I agree with my friend's conclusion that Babbage engines, had they been built and mass produced, would have "died out" with the rise of electronics.It is amazing, however, that Babbage foresaw the configuration of his mechanical Analytical Engine as consisting of two unique but connected components; one, a mechanical entity for carrying out arithmetic operations, and two, a mechanical contrivance where numeric values would be stored.Amazing, because his concept, although relegated to mechanical implementation, predated by a century the concepts detailed by Von Neumann who viewed the configuration of modern computer architecture as consisting of those two fundamental interfaced components - the arithmetic logical unit or central processor, and the computer memory.
Kudos to Swade for bringing the life and times of Charles Babbage to the fore, and for his years of involvement and dedication to the actual construction of Difference Engine #2.There are numerous YouTube entries where you can see the machine operating.Or perhaps you were lucky enough to be awed, as I was, as an actual witness to the operation of Babbage's dream onsite at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

5-0 out of 5 stars Same book as "The Cogwheel Brain"
This is a terrific book. Beyond that, I have nothing to add to the previous excellent reviews, except to note that it seems to be precisely the same book as Doron Swade's The Cogwheel Brain. I nearly bought both until I checked the tables of contents...

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the great accomplishments of the 19th century
Charles Babbage and John Herschel, the astronomer, were preparing tables for the astronomical society.They needed to check the work of computations by humans, by different computers.The need for tables was particulary important for navigators.The source of error in the tables was clear, human fallibility.The manual production of tables, calculation, transcription, typesetting, and proofreading created opportunities for error.The engine of change in 1821 was the steam engine.Charles Babbage wanted to produce a machine to produce error-free tables.

Babbage entered Trinity in 1810.He studied on his own the work of the French mathematicians.His father was a well-to-do London banker.Charles married and received from his father an allowance of three hundred pounds.In London he established himself in scientific circles.By the spring of 1822 he had a small working model of his first design.Computing devices of the time required manipulation and were limited as to the size of the numbers the devices could handle.Babbit first used the method of differences, addition, in his design.He sent a brief announcement to the Astronomical Society about his invention.He received a mandate from the government and was prepared to build a new machine.He hired Joseph Clement for precision engineering work.Clement and Babbage devised new tools and modified machines.There was a need to produce large numbers of similar parts.Babbage conceived of his machine when manufacturing was in transition.By 1826 Babbage was wholly absorbed in the design of his Difference Engine.The machine was eight feet by seven feet by three feet.

In 1826 Babbage published a book on life assurance.While traveling in Europe following the death of his wife, he learned of his election as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.He never resided in Cambridge and gave no lectures.Babbage expressed a view on the decline of science In England.Undoubtedly science was more professional in Prussia and France.Babbage's position alienated some of his supporters.In 1832 part of the engine was put on display in his drawing room.Clement was to leave the project.Work was not resumed.The Treasury Department spent more than seventeen thousand pounds on it.

There is a curious affinity between mathematics, mind, and computing.After the break with Clement, Babbage moved from the Difference Engine to the Analytical Engine.He devised the first automatic mechanisms for multiplication and division.He had in fact designed a general purpose four function calculator.In 1836 he opted for punch cards to control the engine.The Analytical Engine was never built.Babbage worked in isolation.With the Analytical Engine Babbage was seduced by the intellectual quest.

After twenty years the Treasury axed the Difference Engine and wrote off the expense.Between 1846 and 1849 Babbage designed Difference Engine No. 2.Maurice Wilkins believed the Analytical Engine was one of the great accomplishments of the 19th century.The Science Museum in Britain built a version of the Difference Engine No. 2 for an exhibit on Babbage.

3-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Engines
This book has 2 basic parts.First, is the discussion of Babbage's life and his computing engines.Second, is the author's modern-day story of attempting to complete Babbage's Difference Engine, a feat which Babbage himself was unable to do.I picked up this book for the first part.I wanted to learn about Babbage and how his engines worked.While the author gives a wonderful account of Babbage's life and methodology, he does not clearly describe HOW these engines function.I realize that the engines are extremely complex, but a chapter on the functioning of the Difference Engine trial piece and some diagrams on its operations would have been much appreciated. Unfortunately, as were Babbage's contemporaries, we are left mainly in dark as to how simply turning a crank can produce the necessary additions.The author also never fully explains the "method of finite differences" upon which the function of the difference engine is based.

The most amazing part of the book is the overview of Babbage's design for the Analytical Engine- the first programmable computer.It is amazingly similar in concept to today's modern computers, but it uses motion through metal gears and cams, instead of electricity through logic gates and wires. I expected to be bored by the modern-day story, but I actually was interested in the process of reconstructing this 19th century machine.It was enlightening to see how the same problems Babbage faced 150 years before troubled engineers today.

Overall, I recommend this book for those curious about Babbage and his engines. However, the writing seems jerky and unorganized in parts, and there is little technical description of the engines' functionality.

2-0 out of 5 stars Doron Swade's Quest to Build a Difference Engine
This is the first book I've read on Charles Babbage, but I imagine that there are others that are better.First, this book seems to assume you've already read a book or two about Babbage before.It almost has an apologetic tone and seems to be an answer to what, I assume, have been slights against Babbage and his work.Second, this book is as much about the author and his quest to build a Difference Engine as it is about Babbage himself.If you want to hear about dealing with office politics in an British museum, you may find this interesting.

All in all, this is a fairly dry read.It was interesting at points, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it for your first book on Babbage. ... Read more


16. LITTLE ENGINES THAT COULD'VE (Harvard Dissertations in the History of Science)
by Collier
 Hardcover: 319 Pages (1991-03-01)
list price: US$76.00
Isbn: 0824000439
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17. Charlz Bebidzh, 1791-1871 (Nauchno-biograficheskaia seriia)
by I. A Apokin
 Unknown Binding: 127 Pages (1981)

Asin: B0000D61AZ
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18. Passages from the Life of Philosopher
by Charles Babbage
 Hardcover: 508 Pages (1969-06)
list price: US$57.50
Isbn: 067800479X
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19. Mr. Babbage's Secret: The Tale of a Cypher and Apl
by Ole Immanuel Franksen
 Hardcover: 320 Pages (1985-06)
list price: US$46.00
Isbn: 0136047297
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20. William Whewell (Pioneers in Economics)
 Hardcover: 273 Pages (1991-12)
list price: US$200.00 -- used & new: US$196.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1852784814
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Part of the Pioneers in Economics series which presents critical appraisals of influential economists from the 17th century to the present day. This text looks at the work of William Whewell, Dionysius Lardner and Charles Babbage. ... Read more


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