Babbage Difference Engine In Lego

Posted on March 31, 2008  Comments (1)

Building A Calculating Machine Using Lego Pieces by Andrew Carol

Before the day of computers and pocket calculators all mathematics was done by hand. Great effort was expended to compose trigonometric and logarithmic tables for navigation, scientific investigation, and engineering purposes. The larger efforts involved rooms of semi skilled people, called ‘computers’, capable of doing reliable arithmetic who would be under the direction of a skilled mathematician.

In the mid-19th century, people began to design machines to automate this error prone process. Many machines of various designs were eventually built but, the most advanced and famous of these was not. The Babbage Difference Engine.

Because of engineering issues as well as political and personal conflict the Babbage Difference engines construction had to wait until 1991 when the Science Museum in London decided to build the Babbage Difference Engine No.2 for an exhibit on the history of computers.

Babbage’s design could evaluate 7th order polynomials to 31 digits of accuracy. I set out to build a working Difference Engine using standard LEGO parts which could compute 2nd or 3rd order polynomials to 3 or 4 digits. I have built two generations of Difference Engines and am designing the third version now.

Related: Rubick’s Cube Solving Lego Mindstorms RobotLego Autopilot Project UpdateOpen Source for LEGO MindstormsDonald Knuth, Computer Scientist

One Response to “Babbage Difference Engine In Lego”

  1. Eric
    March 31st, 2008 @ 6:42 pm

    That is really interesting! I wrote a review on my blog
    welcome to share your opinion!

Leave a Reply