Babbage’s vintage supercomputer heads to US


Babbage’s vintage supercomputer heads to US

Karl Flinders

A UK supercomputer designed in the 1840's is crossing the Atlantic Ocean and is destined to sit in the lounge of Microsoft's former CTO.

The Difference Engine number 2 as it is known was never built by its designer Charles Babbage. It followed the Design Engine 1 which Babbage began building in 1821 but abandoned in 1832.

The machine was finally completed in 2002 at the Science Museum in London.

A second identical version of the design was completed this week and will fly to the US on Friday. Nathan Myhrvold, formerly CTO at Microsoft, commissioned the project for display in his Seattle home.

The supercomputer is 11ft long, 7ft wide and is made up of 8,000 parts. The machine is cranked up using a handle and automatically calculates and tabulates mathematical equations.

Doron Swade, who masterminded the construction of the two machines said: "The completion of this Engine closes an anguished chapter in the history of computing. It vindicates Babbage's work and memorialises the remarkable achievements of the first computer pioneer. And when did the UK last export a supercomputer to the US?"

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