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IEEE Annals of the History of Computing Volume 13 Number 4 -- Happenings

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129689D
Original Publication Date: 1991-Sep-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 7 page(s) / 33K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

JUDY O'NEILL: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

The Happenings department reports on past, present, and future events that are of interest to the history of computing. These events include conferences, appropriate sessions from meetings, exhibits, projects, awards, publications, collections, general memorabilia, and important dates in the history of computing. Contributions to the department are encouraged and should consist of a description or report of the event, highlighting its specific relevance.

This text was extracted from a PDF file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 13% of the total text.

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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.

Happenings

JUDY O'NEILL, EDITOR

The Happenings department reports on past, present, and future events that are of interest to the history of computing. These events include conferences, appropriate sessions from meetings, exhibits, projects, awards, publications, collections, general memorabilia, and important dates in the history of computing. Contributions to the department are encouraged and should consist of a description or report of the event, highlighting its specific relevance.

A Sumptuous Piece of Engineering Sculpture

The Bicentenary of the 1791 birth of Charles Babbage was marked in the United Kingdom by a collection of events and one non-event. The highlight of the celebrations was clearly the unveiling on 27 June 1991, of Babbage's Difference Engine No. 2 within the exhibit at the Science Museum, London, entitled Making the Difference. Without prejudice, one cannot be offended by the description by the curator of the exhibit, Dr. Doron Swade, showing a lack of typical English modesty and understatement, who describes this first complete implementation of the engine as a sumptuous piece of engineering sculpture.

While it would have been possible to create a facsimile to meet the needs of a populist exhibit in polished brass and wrought iron, the engine not only commemorates the prowess of its creator but also proves the brilliance of Babbage in designing a machine which, with perhaps one or two minor and understandable errors, worked the first time! Built as closely as possible in conformance with the machining and metallurgical capabilities of the mid1800s, the fact that Difference Engine No. 2 operates as designed dispels the long held myth that one of the reasons Babbage did not complete the engine was the paucity of machine tool engineering capabilities. Only one concession to human capabilities has been incorporated into the completed engine -- a four to one gear production system has been added to the crank to enable the operation of the engine without tremendous muscular effort. The turning of the carry levers on the rear (defined to be the face away from that normally portrayed in previous pictures and diagrams) is a spectacle which unfortunately will be missed by many museum visitors since the engine is not constantly in motion. A video-tape of the motion of the engine shown by Dr. Swade after the opening reveals the beauty of this operation.

The exhibit consists of five displays highlighting segments of Babbage's life:

- The Tables Crisis - Babbage and Technology - Glory and Failure - Computer Pioneer - Polymath

A complete description of the exhibit, its development and goals is expected to be published in a future issue of the Annals of the History of Computing.

The opening of the Science Museum exhibit was preceded by the issuance of a s...