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Pray Mr. Babbage -- A character study in dramatic form

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129675D
Original Publication Date: 1991-Mar-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 15 page(s) / 50K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

MAURICE V. WILKES: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Babbage is noted for his technical, belately recognized, triumphs of computational technology; his personality has been the subject of scrutiny by severe/ authors. Towards his end of life he is said to have wished that he could exchange the remainder of his life for three days in the future. This play provides us with the opportunity to step back to his day and to see the man separate (as far as he would allow) from his machines. That we could grant his wish ...

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1991 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Pray Mr. Babbage -- A character study in dramatic form

MAURICE V. WILKES

(Image Omitted: © 1983 by Maurice V. Wilkes. Applications for permission to perform the play should be addressed to Professor Wilkes at the Computer laboratory, Pembroke Street, Cambridge CB2 3QG, England Editors note: The Computer Museum presented the premier performance of Pray, Mr. Babbage..., on 10 December 1982)

Babbage is noted for his technical, belately recognized, triumphs of computational technology; his personality has been the subject of scrutiny by severe/ authors. Towards his end of life he is said to have wished that he could exchange the remainder of his life for three days in the future. This play provides us with the opportunity to step back to his day and to see the man separate (as far as he would allow) from his machines. That we could grant his wish ...

CR Categories and Subject Descriptors: K2 [Computing Milieux]: History of Computing - hardware, people General Terms: Design, Documentation, Economics, Experimentation Additional Keywords and Phrases: Charles Babbage, Difference Engine, Analytical Engine

Mr. Babbage's library in his house at 1 Dorset Street, London, is a comfortable apartment, as it needs to be, for he spends much of his time in it. It has the usual trappings of a library, including bookcases, a writing table, and leather armchairs. By the side of the fireplace which has no fire is a bell handle of the usual rotary type. The door is at the rear, and on one side of it is a small oval lookingglass in a gilt surround. On the other side there is a just discernible mark on the wallpaper, suggesting that at some time a similar looking-glass has hung there.

The date is 19 November 1856, and Mr. Babbage is 65 years old. His wife died young and for the last thirty years he has lived by himself. His loneliness has been accentuated by the circumstance that his two elder sons have migrated to Western Australia and his youngest son, of whom we shall hear more, is in the service of the East India Company.

As long as anyone can remember, Mr. Babbage has been working on a vast mechanical digital computer which he calls his Analytical Engine but has never succeeded in producing anything that would work. In consequence, the world has written him off as a crank, a verdict that history will one day triumphantly reverse. He is given to complain to anyone who will listen that, in spite of having expended much effort and a considerable fortune on the Analytical Engine and on the Difference Engine that came before it, he has received nothing but rebuffs in his own country, particularly from the Government and that he is better appreciated abroad. Nor is he free from the Victorian failing of indulging in personal vendettas, conducted in print, with those who have crossed his...