11 May 2008
Victorian Computing ~ What Might Have Been the Age of Steamechatronics
Along with the abandoned prospect for future Chinese worldwide sea explorations in the 1400s following those led by Zheng He, the unbuilt mechanical Difference Engine by Charles Babbage is one of human history's most remarkable Might Have Beens. Had Babbage been able to successfully construct this computer in the 1800s, an entire steam-powered age of computing, semaphorics, and other elements might have happened which we only later achieved in the 1900s. Imagine history accelerated by a century! (Of course, science fiction authors have long done this, leading to the entire genre of Alternate History). Here's the Difference Engine... The Computer History Museum has more info, an actual working modern replica built to Babbages specs, plus nice little video of this machine.