Born on the 26 December 1791 Charles Babbage was to become not only a mathematician and philosopher, but also a mechanical engineer later to be recognised for introducing the idea of a programmable computer. From an early age Babbage had often been ill, however due to the wealth of his father he was taught at some of the most recognised schools. It was at Holmwood Academy when Babbage realised his love of mathematics and following his elementary education, Charles went on to Trinity College, Cambridge, to read mathematics. It was after his graduation when Babbage was hired by the Royal Institution to lecture on calculus, and two years later he was elected a member of the Royal Society and along with his peers from Cambridge set up the Astronomical Society.
It was whilst studying at Cambridge that Babbage began thinking about building a machine, which could calculate mechanically without human error.
ÃÂBabbageÃÂs engines were among the first mechanical computersÃÂ , although it must be acknowledged that they were not actually completed, largely due to funding, as at the time many of the materials and machine tools that were needed to shape certain parts of the engine were not available, therefore the only way forward was for Babbage and his workers to construct and design them. However the consequence of the delays meant that the Government became worried and the financial support from them became limited, thus making BabbageÃÂs life harder. Throughout BabbageÃÂs life ÃÂnumerical tables were calculated by humans called ÃÂcomputersÃÂÃÂ , therefore as already mentioned human error was quite high, thus he used this as his main fuel in developing and calculating numerical tables. This he began in 1822 with what he called his ÃÂDifference EngineÃÂ, ÃÂmade to compute values of polynomial functionsÃÂ , and ÃÂunlike similar efforts of the time, BabbageÃÂs ÃÂDifference EngineÃÂ was created to calculate a series of values automaticallyÃÂÃÂ . However, very little remains of his ÃÂprototype computing machinesÃÂ . Although at the time many scientific institutions respected and recognised his works, his worst enemy appeared to be the British Government, due to the fact that they suspended funding for his ÃÂDifference EngineÃÂ, and after a prolonged waiting period, his project ended in 1842.
However after the collapse of his first work, Babbage began designing a more complex piece of machinery called the ÃÂAnalytical EngineÃÂ, and it is with this design that his fame and recognition as a computer pioneer rests with. Its function was mainly to ÃÂperform any arithmetical calculation using punched cards that would deliver the instructions, as well as a memory unit to store numbers and many other fundamental components of todayÃÂs computersÃÂ. Babbage also intended for the ÃÂAnalytical EngineÃÂ to take on features that consequently are used in todayÃÂs computers, such as, ÃÂcontrol, branching and loopingÃÂ , thus indicating itÃÂs importance in introducing functions that are carried out in computing. What makes the ÃÂAnalytical EngineÃÂ such a wonderful piece of work, was the dexterity that Babbage used, and how he was constructing ways of computing, that ÃÂwould become reality 80-90 years later with the IBM revolutionÃÂ.
ÃÂIn 1824 Babbage won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical SocietyÃÂ, because of his inventions which calculated the mathematical and astronomical tables, which reiterates how important his work was and is to the world of technology. Many critics and academics refer to Babbage as the ÃÂFather of ComputingÃÂ. This paternalistic description of Babbage shows the respect and recognition that many have of him and his work, and as Choney describes, there is no doubt that ÃÂhis contributions to mechanical engineering and tabulation helped lead the way for other subsequent and more successful efforts that did result in what we now consider modern computingÃÂ. Somebody who stood strongly by Babbage was a lady called Ada Lovelace, who many argue was one of the very few people who actually understood Babbage and his ideas, and it, was she who created a program for the ÃÂAnalytical EngineÃÂ. Hypothetically however, if the ÃÂAnalytical EngineÃÂ had ever been built, ÃÂher program would have been able to calculate a series of Bernoulli numbersÃÂ. In 1979 she was recognised as being the first computer programmer, however in 1981, ÃÂa satirical article by Tony Carp in the magazine ÃÂDatamationÃÂ described the Babbage programming language as the ÃÂlanguage of the futureÃÂÃÂ.
However, what we must take into consideration is that, even though Babbage in many academic circles is considered the ÃÂFather of ComputingÃÂ, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that modern electronic computers are related to his works. The reason why he took on this title could be argued was because his ÃÂDifference EngineÃÂ and his ÃÂAnalytical EngineÃÂ ÃÂwhich was intended as a general symbol manipulator, were inventions far more complex than the work of any of his contemporaries.ÃÂ Also what we must remember is the fact that Babbage never actually completed his ÃÂAnalytical EngineÃÂ, therefore again this draws criticism. On the other hand, even though it took until the mid 1900s to build computers, recognition can not be taken away from the fact that Charles Babbage was the brains behind the idea, and it must be mentioned that ÃÂboth designs had the potential to be very powerful, especially for the time period.ÃÂCharles BabbageReportThroughout this investigation I have used sources mainly from the internet, which have included encyclopaediasÃÂ such as ÃÂWikipediaÃÂ, articles, websites dedicated to Charles Babbage himself and essays and information which have been written by academics on Babbage and his contributions to the development of computers.
Overall I found each of my sources are both relevant for the investigation and informative, however it seemed that after reading one article, for example off ÃÂWikipediaÃÂ there was not anything else new which I learnt by reading other articles. However what I did find extremely interesting and helpful for the essay was a piece of work written by Jared Rudenstein, called ÃÂThe History and Contributions of Charles BabbageÃÂ. Not only did it reiterate the facts which I already knew about Babbage, but it also used certain critics and reporters such as Suzanne Choney, who I researched and found that she writes articles for ÃÂThe San Diego Union TribuneÃÂ, for example, ÃÂA Real DifferenceÃÂ; An Idea to Calculate by Machine Set us on the Path to the Computer Age. One of the most helpful sources of information was the ÃÂCharles Babbage Institute, Centre for the History of Information TechnologyÃÂ; because it gave what many critics had already wrote about him. Being able to access these was useful in the sense that I was able to gain different views, which aided the conclusion that I came to.
For the majority of my sources they were informative, however as I have already mentioned once I read one, the others reiterated what they all said, but reading what the different critics wrote was interesting in finding different opinions about the ÃÂFather of ComputingÃÂ.