Difference engine

1822 Difference engine

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Charles Babbage computer science Difference engine

Difference engine



Even though some of the mechanics had been invented before him, and even though his ideas would not become practical for a hundred years, Babbage’s engine was revolutionary.

The Difference Engine was designed to approximate the solutions of polynomial functions using Newton’s method of divided differences for the construction of astronomical and mathematical tables. This machine was cranked by hand.

The Analytical Engine, in contrast, was designed as a general-purpose Turing-complete machine.

Ada Lovelace wrote her program to calculate the sequence of Bernoulli numbers as an illustration for her translation of Luigi Menabrea’s memoir on the Analytical Engine.

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