Thierry Thomas wrote:
> Oliver Fromme wrote:
>
> > > I have a cousin who's taking up a programming course. He doesn't have
> > > background with programming nor an in depth understanding of how the
> > > computer works. I tried explaining him that it all started with
> > > abacus, and that people wanted to use something that could make their
> > > arithmetic life easier and that Charles Babbage tried automating this
> > > manual calculator with his steam engine or some sort... and that...

> >
> > Actually Charles Babbage designed a complex mechanical
> > computing machine (with lots of gearwheels etc.), but
> > it only ever existed on paper. Only small parts of it
> > have actually been built, but never the whole thing,
> > because it was too complex. It would work in theory,
> > though. :-)

>
> Pascal built such a machine:
> .


That's a quite different one. Pascal's Calculator was a
rather simple mechanical calculator that could only add
and subtract numbers. Once the design was finished, it
was quite easy to actually build it. I wouldn't call it
a "computer".

The Machine that Charles Babbage designed almost 200 years
later was meant to tabulate polynomial functions, and it
was _much_ more complex. It was a beast consisting of
25,000 connected gearwheels. And that was only his first
design; it was followed by even more complex ones.

In fact it is true that his last design of an "analytical
engine" (the first programmable computer ever, though
never actually built) was intended to be powered by a
steam engine, so the OP was right. :-)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_babbage
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_engine
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytical_engine

Best regards
Oliver

--
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I suggested holding a "Python Object Oriented Programming Seminar",
but the acronym was unpopular.
-- Joseph Strout
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