Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine Takes on Deep Learning

Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine was never completed, but that’s not really the point. It was the idea: a machine capable of computing anything that could possibly be computed. That’s more or less the definition of Turing completeness, but Alan Turing wouldn’t be alive for another 80ish years. Babbage was laying his plans as far back as 1834, still decades before even electric power would come to the UK. The thing basically consisted of stacks of gear-based addition units arranged into columns in clever enough ways to be able to handle the four primary operations of arithmetic. Crucially, it could store results on punchcards and it could also accept programs (“formulae”) on punchcards. Much like the device you’re currently reading this on is based on primitive assembly language, it was these…


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