Charles Babbage Sometimes called the "father of the computer", Charles Babbage (1791–1871), an English mathematician, invented the first mechanical computer on which more complex designs were later based. He directed the building of steam-powered machines, including what was called the Difference Engine in 1823, which could perform mathematical calculations. Another of Babbage's inventions, the more complex Analytical Engine, was a device intended to be able to perform calculations using punched cards.
Babbage was inspired to invented his device in order to eliminate errors in carrying out astronomical calculations. In Babbage's time, printed mathematical tables were calculated by hand. To build it, in 1823 Babbage asked the engineer Joseph Clement (1779–1844) to work from his designs. This machine, along with later versions of it, remained unfinished at Babbage's death. Although entirely mechanical, the basic design was similar to that of a modern computer: the data and program memory were separated and the operation was instruction-based.
Babbage's design for the Difference Engine was finally built in 1989–1991, following his plans. It performed its first calculation at the London Science Museum.
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