Analytical Engine

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analytical engine

[‚an·əl′id·ə·kəl ′en·jən]
(computer science)
An early-19th-century form of mechanically operated digital computer.

Analytical Engine

A design for a general-purpose digital computer proposed by Charles Babbage in 1837 as a successor to his earlier special-purpose Difference Engine.

The Analytical Engine was to be built from brass gears powered by steam with input given on punched cards. Babbage could never secure enough funding to build it, and so it was, and never has been, constructed.

Analytical Engine

A programmable calculator designed by British scientist Charles Babbage. After his Difference Engine failed its test in 1833, Babbage started the design of the Analytical Engine in 1834. Developed in spurts due to lack of funds and constant redesign, a trial model was finally built in 1871, the year Babbage died. Although never completed, it was a major advance in computing because it contained the principles of the stored program computer. For example, it provided a conditional statement that would branch somewhere else in the program based on the value being tested. The parts of the Engine that were actually built did work however.

Babbage's colleague and close friend, Augusta Ada Byron, the Countess of Lovelace and daughter of the poet Lord Byron, explained the machine's concepts to the public. Her programming notes survived, making her the first official computing machine programmer in the world. The Ada programming language was named after her. See analytical database engine, Difference Engine and Mark I.

Analytical Engine
Programming the Analytical Engine might have been a bit more tedious than programming one of today's computers. (Image courtesy of Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota,
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