Friday, May 4, 2012

TBs TechTOC Recall 03 - The Babbage Machine, where Steampunk and LEGO met!

Most of you, at least those following here at the time, should remember about the magnificent realization in LEGO of the Antikythera Mechanism, by Andrew Carol in late 2010.

It was however not the first time that Andrew made something magnificent with LEGO Technic, and that's exactly what wee are bringing up here today. Something quite old, regarding the time it concerns, but also as a LEGO creation in itself. As you might have realized by now, I mean the Babbage Difference Engine originally proposed by the British mathematician Charles Babbage in 1822, but never fully assembled in his lifetime.

Andrew Carol is a software engineer at Apple Computer Inc. that spent his spare time building analog computers with LEGO, when he is not working on improving the finer points of OS X.
On the third generation of his hand cranked Babbage Difference Engine, it can evaluate polynomials of the form Ax^2 + Bx + C for x=0, 1, 2, …n with 3 digit results. Below it is a video the demos the machine capabilities where it is set to calculate the squares of the integers. The video shows the computation from X=2 through 8. It will output 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, and 64.

At his website, Andrew also has one page with a comprehensive explanation of the machine history, how it works, issues and challenges.

As also written at Andrew's entry page on Building Complex Machines Using LEGO, this is almost where Steampunk and LEGO meet.
And that's exactly the title of a fine article and nice reading published at New Scientist magazine back in December 2010, about Andrew's replicas from ancient machines now crafted with LEGO plastic gears. Clicking the image below you can find a pdf file with the article for your convenient reading.

Hope you have enjoyed it as much as I did, besides the more than 16 months it took me to write this post, since I received the article above from my friend Didier Enjary.
Not to mention that I've this model on my to-post list, almost since the first day of TBs ...

1 comment:

santi said...

I;ve been fascinated by this creation since the very first moment I saw it! I myself have been playing around with the different ideas to create mechanical lego computers that different people have been posted online. Fascinating topic!

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