Babbage's Difference Engine No 2 with printing mechanism, February 2001.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This engine was constructed by the Science Museum in London from designs made by British computing pioneer Charles Babbage (1791-1871) between 1847 and 1849. The main part of the engine was completed in 1991 for the bicentennial year of Babbage's birth, and the printing mechanism was completed in 2000. It is seen here in the Computing Gallery of the Science Museum. Babbage conceived the engine to calculate a series of numerical values and automatically print the results. Difference Engine No 2 was never constructed in his lifetime. Factors cited include his allegedly difficult personality, disputes with his engineer, political instability, withdrawal of government funding, and limitations in Victorian machine tool technology.