Charles Babbage

Charles Babbage is often called the “father of computing” because of his invention of the Analytical Engine. However, many people do not know the details of this very important mans life. Charles Babbage was born on December 26, 1792, just about that same time that the industrial revolution was beginning. He was born in Teignmouth, Devon shire. Although not much is really known about his childhood, it is known that he had many brothers and sisters, but many of them died before adulthood. It is also known that Babbage never really played with his toys, instead, he would dissect them.

When Babbage grew up he attended many new schools. He ended up at Forty Hill, where he was famous for mischief but for some reason or another Babbage still studied. He did bad things like carved his name in his desks, violated his curfew, and insult the minister’s sermons. He still found time to wake up with a friend at three in the morning and study in the library until five-thirty. Frederick Marryat, Babbages roommate and a future novelist, joined his morning study group. When Marryat began to attend regularly he started to bring more and more friends.

And the once study group now became wild parties that were eventually broken up by the schools head master. After both Marryat and Babbage had become famous they loved to tell how they were deemed the two students most likely never to amount to anything. Babbage created his first invention, a type of shoes make of books that helped one walk on water, at his fathers summer home. This idea was good, but it didnt work, because he would weave too much from side to side and eventually fall over. It is told that in 1810, at the age of nineteen, Babbage went up to Trinity College, Cambridge with some friends.

Babbage studied grammar, literature, and many other important lessons, but he found his obsession to be mathematics. He read many books on the subject. Babbages teachers frustrated him greatly though, because none of them could ever answer his questions. He was very good at mathematics, especially calculus, and he soon figured out that not one of his teachers knew as much about it as he did. And he was very right about this. Babbage and some other students formed the Analytical Society, where the Cambridge mathematics department disliked all the students, but they continued on anyway, because they wanted to make a difference.

They noticed mistakes in earlier works and tried to correct them all. They all wanted to, as Babbage so eloquently put, Let us leave the world a wiser one then we found. But making these corrections was time consuming and Babbage got frustrated with it. He thought it would be really great if there was a machine that could produce the right answers the first time, then there would be no human error, and then they wouldnt have to correct anything. This is what started him on building adding machines. Babbage took many years thinking things out, but finally he built his first calculating machine called the Difference Engine.

It could print out the answers, but was limited to the highness of the numbers. It was good for astronomers because it could create accurate tables of star positions at certain dates. It was more accurate then human calculation though, and it didnt make any silly mistakes. Which was very useful, but it was only a prototype, Babbage never finished the real thing. He could never decide on one blueprint. Babbage was always thinking of new ways to improve it. He ended up spending quite a great deal of money (Britains as well as his own family fortune) on this idea, but it did lead to his next engine, and computer programming.

Once again, Babbage tried to invent an adding machine. This resulted in him creating the Analytical Engine. The Analytical Engine led to modern computers in three ways. First of all there was the Punch card, which Babbage realized that functions could be placed on similar cards so that all they had to do was create the right card, and anyone could put it into the machine and set it to go. Babbage also devised two separate parts for the Analytical Engine, one that was similar to a factory and the other to a retailer. Sadly, the Analytical Engine was not even given much attention.

All of Babbages work eventually led to better and easier machines that helped simplify mathematics. His work also made human errors in calculations less and less. And even though he never built a working computer, his designs and concepts really aided in the development of calculators and computers. And where would we be today without inventions like these that help make things easier in our lives. He truly opened many doors for what we now have and we should be grateful. Charles Babbage died on October 18, 1871 in London a lonely, but brilliant man.

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