Babbage was only a few years out of Cambridge when he decided to devote his efforts to the production of a Difference Engine, so-called because of the mathematical principle on which it was based, the method of calculating finite difference. This was to overcome the "intolerable labour and fatiguing monotony of a continued repetition of similar arithmetical calculations" (p.1). This paper describes his concept, a pilot project, his critical results, and eventually his indirect request for financial support. The result of this open letter was a meeting with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1823 who subsequently provided £1000 to construct the Engine. The project was subsequently hindered by delays and funding difficulties, but eventually, after being partially entrusted to John Herschel, a section of the engine was successfully assembled by the end of 1832. It worked impeccably. Transferred to the Science Museum in London in 1862, it is THE FIRST KNOWN AUTOMATIC CALCULATOR AND IS ONE OF THE MOST CELEBRATED ICONS IN THE PREHISTORY OF COMPUTING (see Doron Swade, ODNB).
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