Babbage’s Difference Engine at Computer History Museum

Today was the last chance to see Babbage’s Difference Engine at the CHM in Mountain View before the owner makes it private again.

The Computer History Museum has certainly matured into a world-class museum over the years.

The docent talked for about 45 minutes. Unfortunately, it was displayed at the end of a hallway. So 100+ people with kids and strollers jostled to get a view.

It’s very impressive in person – consists of 8,000 parts, weighs five tons, and measures 11 feet long, moderately noisy and mesmerizing to watch. The cranker used a moderately strong rowing motion.



Babbage, in building the first computer, did not have the hindsight to start with a smaller version first. Thus he never finished building a working model despite a decade of funding from the British government and the remaining days of his life working on it.

CHM did a fantastic job on the DEC PDP-1 and IBM 1401 display rooms. Only about 50 PDP-1’s were made, so to have a working model is amazing.

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