Charles Babbage

Babbage's Relevance Today and his Legacy

Babbage's visions were not fully realised in his lifetime as he never succeeded in building either the Difference Machine or the Analytical Machine. His work remained purely theoretical until the 20th century when modern manufacturing techniques allowed mankind to make the first computers. Despite his failure to realise his dream, Babbage's plans alone distinguish himself as a man ahead of his times. Some regard him as being too ahead of his time as his plans did not spark any further interest in the field. His innovations however are nonetheless remarkable and stand as an inspiration to both computer visionaries and scientists today.

Below is a table of memorials paid to Charles Babbage:

Memorial Year
Moon Crater named 'Babbage' 1982
Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota 1978
Babbage, British Rail Locomotive 1991
Babbage Programming Language 1971
Babbage's, chain of video-game stores (now GameStop) 1984

Babbage - British Rail Locomotive

Babbage was born in the wrong century. He is known to have said he would give up the rest of his time to spend just three days 500 years in the future. He is thought to have had little direct impact on the design of the computer. Babbage is important because of his magnificent vision. He forsaw the princiles of the modern computer and wide scale communication systems centuries before they became a reality. Babbage was aware of the shackles of 19th century technology and it was something that he could do nothing about.

Many consider Babbage's greatest legacy to be his contribution to precision engineering and machining along with the standardising of parts and threads for his machines, something that was never done before. One of his employees founded his own engineering firm 'Whitworth' which made precision parts up until the 1960s. Previous to Babbage's engines, parts were not interchangable and screws and bolts would have to be made by thr same workshop otherwise they would not fit together.

All images used are from the Wikimedia Commons Library, CC