Thursday, February 09, 2006

First computer finished after 184 years, with Lego

Who built the first computer and when did that happen?

Many say the honour goes to Charles Babbage, who reinvented and started to build a contraption called a Difference Engine. A Difference Engine could be programmed to calculate numerical tables, a task that at the time was done by people called 'computers'.

Although brilliant, Babbage had a great flaw: he had a habit of not finishing what he started. This applied to both his first Difference Engine, started in 1822, his Analytical Engine (1837 onwards) and his second Difference Engine (1847-1849).

Because he received large sums of money from the British Government for each of these, he ended up with a somewhat tarnished and definitely underrated reputation.

Still, he did groundbreaking work, as did his friend Ada Lovelace, who invented the idea of software in order to let the machine predict the outcome of horse races. Ms Lovelace, incidentally the daughter of the great poet Byron, thus became the world's first computer programmer.

Babbage's and Lovelace's efforts deserve to live on in our collective memory, and what better way to make this happen than building a Lego version of it?

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