November 18th, 2009


Why is there so much written about the Difference Engine, a thing that was not made and essentially had no meaningful influence on the development of the computer as we know it, compared to what is written about the Hollerith Type I Tabulator, which was and did? It is not as if they are nasty boring electronic machines, they are big and have plenty of moving parts. Is it just the appeal of 'that which is not'? By dint of never having existed, the difference engine wasn't used for all the boring things that computers are used for in the real world, and weren't sold by men in suits and ties?

Why is the basement of the Museum Of History Of Science not full of bits of real machines and heroic pictures of the men and women of The British Tabulating Machine Company instead of that wretched 'steampunk' exhibition (mutter mutter)? Notably, of course, Harold 'Doc' Keen who had worked for BTM since before WWI and designed the Bombes of Bletchley Park (based, of course, on Alan Turing's conception).