Highlights of the London
1. difference engine No. 1: This trial
portion of the difference engine was
used by Babbage as a demonstration
2. analytical engine Mill, 1834–1871:
Babbage’s design possessed all the
essential logical features of the modern
3. Lord Kelvin’s tide predicting machine, 1876: By cranking the handle,
the machine calculates the harbor’s
tide patterns for up to a year in only four
4. hartree and Porter differential analyzer, 1934: Built using Meccano at a cost
of just £ 20, the model was based on the
differential analyzer built by Vannevar
Bush at Mi T, 1930.
5. Parts of Colossus, 1943: From the
code-breaking machine used during the
second World War at Bletchley Park.
6. Unit from eNiaC, 1946: developed
at the University of Pennsylvania, the
machine laid the foundations for high-speed digital computing.
7. Pilot aCe, 1950: The first machine
to embody the theoretical ideas of a
general-purpose computer by mathematician alan Turing.
8. Unit from Leo 1, 1951: The first
business computer used by the Lyons
9. Ferranti Pegasus Computer, 1959:
Currently the oldest working electronic
computer in the world.
10. BesM- 6 supercomputer, 1966: The
only known example of a russian supercomputer in the West.
11. apple i, 1976: This first apple
computer was a kit machine for home
12. Cray i-a, 1976: The last operating
Cray 1-a in the world, the machine
employed a cylindrical design to reduce
the need for wiring.
46 communications of the acm | may2010 | vol. 53 | no. 5
the science museum in London
The Science Museum’s collections in
London form an enduring record of
scientific, technological, and medical change since the 18th century.
The Science Museum has its origins
in the Great Exhibition of 1851. Initially part of the South Kensington
Museum, the impetus was to promote the new “industrial arts” (what
we might now call art, craft, science,
design, and engineering).
The museum’s science collections
were enriched in 1876 with the acquisition of a large number of scientific
instruments, and the engineering
collections grew through the absorption of the Patent Office Museum in
1883. The museum attracts over 2. 6
million visitors a year, and is world
renowned for its historic collections,
awe-inspiring galleries, and inspirational exhibitions.
The Science Museum’s collections
celebrate computing as one of the most
important technologies of our time,
both in its own right, but also as an underpinning and enabling technology
for so many other industries (see http://
The museum’s computing collections are perhaps most well known
for containing the seminal objects
and material legacy of the mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage
(1791–1871). In Victorian Britain
printed mathematical tables were
used by navigators, architects, engineers, mathematicians and bankers,
but these tables were calculated by
human clerks (literally called calculators) and they were quite often riddled
with errors. Charles Babbage became
interested in mechanizing the production of these tables and he developed
a series of diagrams and prototypes to
enable him to explore his ideas.
Babbage designed two types of engine, Difference Engines and Analytical
Engines. The Difference Engines are
calculators that work on a mathematical
principle of “a method of finite differences,” which allow polynomial equations
to be calculated using pure addition. In
contrast, The Analytical Engines mark a
progression toward a general-purpose
machine. They are one of the startling
intellectual feats of the 19th century