Gearwheel cut-outs for Babbage's Difference Engine No 1, 1824-1832.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Cardboard gearwheel cut-outs, labelled and dated, for Babbage's Difference Engine No 1. The British computing pioneer Charles Babbage (1791-1871) first conceived the idea of an advanced calculating machine to calculate and print mathematical tables in 1812. This, he believed, would eliminate the inaccuracy that occurred when compiling mathematical tables by hand. His first attempt was the Difference Engine. Babbage used cardboard cut-outs while he was developing his designs. This engine was under construction from 1824 until 1832, when the project was abandoned after a disagreement with his engineer Joseph Clement.