Charles Babbage's 1837 steampunk computer may finally be built

While some are looking ahead to Apple's "Back to the Mac" event on Oct. 20 so they can find out what'll be up with computers in 2012, others are paying more attention to a computer first conceived in 1837—Charles Babbage's famous Analytical Engine, which was never completed.

Babbage is considered to be the father of the computer, and programmer and science blogger John Graham-Cumming is hoping to raise £400,000 (about $640,000) so he can use the original blueprints to finally finish the first complete working model of the machine.

"It's an inspirational piece of equipment," Graham-Cumming, told The Telegraph. "A hundred years ago, before computers were available, Babbage had envisaged this machine. What you realize when you read Babbage's papers is that this was the first real computer. It had expandable memory, a CPU, microcode, a printer, a plotter and was programmable with punch cards. It was the size of a small lorry and powered by steam, but it was recognizable as a computer."

Graham-Cumming has already found 2,070 supporters who have pledged money to the project, though we have no idea how far along he is toward meeting his goal. But if you want to be one of them, visit his Pledge Bank. (Which, come to think of it, you wouldn't have been able to do if Babbage hadn't thought up the computer in the first place!)

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