Charles Babbage

26 December 1791 - 18 October 1871

Charles Babbage was an 18th Century polymath, in the true tradition of the word. His interests and activities included: invention, reform, mathematics, philosophy, science, politics and writing. He was one of those men whose greatness was really only recognised long after his life had ceased.

image of Charles Babbage

Although technically questionable in terms of modern computing, his contribution to the theory of 'machines making light work of the drudgery of laborious and extensive calculations', earned him the accolade, the 'father' or 'grandfather' of modern computing.

It was his attempts, through his various calculating machines or the Analytical Engines and Difference Engines which he designed which paved the way theoretically to calculate a result through extensive repetition of a single process.

The sort of calculation methods applied in modern computers, able to perform billions of 'iterations' extremely fast.

image of Charles Babbage's Difference Engine number 2 as built by the Science Museum

Charles Babbage's Difference Engine No. 2 was built to his original designs at the Science Museum in London and completed in 1991 as part of a celebration for the bicentenary of his birth.

It consists of 4,000 parts and weighs over three tons.

It is made of bronze, steel and cast iron.

It has seven orders of difference and calculates to thirty figures. The machine is operated by a crank handle. The printing machine, would print the results to the left of the engine itself.

close up image of Babbage's Difference Engine

The saying that behind every great man is a great woman was most certainly the case when it came to Charles Babbage and his Difference Engine. The 'woman' in point was Ada Lovelace (Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace), Babbage's protege.

Ada was an English writer and mathematician who was arguable the first to recognise what Babbage himself may have overseen; that his Analytical Engine could potentially be utilised for far more that numerical computations and might be put to good use with anything that could be understood in mathematical terms. Ada wrote that the engine “might act upon other things besides number, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations… Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of [mathematical] expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent."

Her ideas were so far ahead of the other great minds of the time that her incredible foresight was not fully recognised until a century after her death.

In the 1970s, the U.S. Department of Defence was developing a programming language with the intention of replacing the large number of disparate languages which were in use by the US military. Jack Cooper, a US Navy Commander, put forward the idea that the new language should be named Ada - an idea which was by all accounts accepted unanimously by those involved. Even today, decades later, Ada is still used in part by numerous industries around the world.

image of Ada Lovelace

The igeek difference

Our spoof model box takes three concepts to illustrate the igeek ethos : form, functionality and flair

image of the igeek model box of Babbage's Difference Engine - The igeek difference!

...making light work of the drudgery of laborious and extensive calculations

Babbage and Lovelace's ideas that implementing task-specific technology, and in our case, software, can save time and manpower within a business and free-up personnel to perform other tasks like building scale models perhaps?