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A New Analytical Engine

Nature volume 81, pages 1415 (01 July 1909) | Download Citation



THE April number of the Scientific Proceedings of the Royal Dublin Society contains an interesting and very original paper by Mr. Percy E. Ludgate on a proposed analytical machine. Of all calculating machines, the analytical machine or engine is the most comprehensive in its powers. Cash till reckoners and adding machines merely add or add and print results. Arithmometers are used for multiplying and dividing, which they really only accomplish by rapidly repeated addition or subtraction, with the exception alone, perhaps, of the arithmometer of Bollée, which, in a way, works by means of a mechanical multiplication table. Difference engines originated by Babbage produce and print tables of figures of almost any variety, but the process is one of addition of successive differences. The analytical engine proposed by Babbage was intended to have powers of calculation so extensive as to seem a long way outside the capacity of mere mechanism, but this was to be brought about by the use of operation cards supplied by the director or user, which, like the cards determining the pattern in a Jacquard loom, should direct the successive operations of the machine, much as the timing cam of an automatic lathe directs the successive movements of the different tools and feeding and chucking devices. However elaborate the mechanism of Babbage, if completed, might have been, the individual elements of operation would, so far as the writer has been able to understand it, have been actually operations of addition or subtraction only, and, with the exception of the method of multiplication created by Bollée, the writer does not recall any case in which mechanism has been used to compute numerical results except by the use of the processes of addition or subtraction, simple or cumulative. Of course, harmonic analysers and other instruments depending on geometry are not included in the category of machines which operate on numbers.

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