Author Options:

Babbage Difference Engine No. 2 On Display Answered

"Charles Babbage (1791-1871), computer pioneer, designed the first automatic computing engines. He invented computers but failed to build them. The first complete Babbage Engine was completed in London in 2002, 153 years after it was designed. Difference Engine No. 2, built faithfully to the original drawings, consists of 8,000 parts, weighs five tons, and measures 11 feet long.
An identical Engine completed in March 2008 is on display at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California until May 2009." - http://www.computerhistory.org/babbage/


Damn I an't for the life of me remember the processing power... I was always amazed by the idea and seeing photos of built babbage engines, they're truly impressive... I also had an idea of a nice feature to a room, a computer whose processor is a wall of tubes rather than trannysistors... speaking of older tech that is...

This website has some good animated explanations of how the core of the difference engine (basically just the adder) works. I strongly recommend it, it's fascinating. It also states that the machine did 10 calculations per minute. I believe a "calculation" in this context is four parallel additions, and the machine worked with 31-digit decimals roughly equivalent to an 103-bit binary machine.

So- two-thirds of a 103 bit addition per second. As the machine works in integers only I'm going to have to fight the temptation to convert that to milliflops :) but roughly 67 bits of addition per second, if you are allowed to munge the numbers that far. If you ignore the parallelism you could just call it 0.1667Hz...

There was an article in Make 13 about a chap that built a computer entirely out of electromechanical relays. It runs at 6Hz.

Like a million tiny tap dancers inside the computer powering it. It would be cool to see tube-puter, it would have an interesting dim glow to it,

I can just imagine the noise that makes :P