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The Computer History Museum Extends Its Exhibition of Babbage's Difference Engine No. 2

One of the earliest automatic computing engine designs to remain at CHM until end of 2009

Mountain View, Calif.—March 31, 2009— The Computer History Museum (CHM) announced today that it has extended its exhibition of Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 2 through the end of 2009.

The Engine, which is on loan to the Museum from Nathan Myhrvold, CEO of Intellectual Ventures and former CTO of Microsoft, was originally scheduled to be transported to Myhrvold’s private collection in May. Through Myhrvold’s generosity, Museum visitors now have the unprecedented opportunity to experience – for an additional viewing period – one of the earliest designs of an automatic computing engine, the first to be on display in North America.

“Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 2 has been a special treat for us to have here at the Museum. We’re thrilled to be able to share this with more visitors and are honored that Nathan has allowed the Museum to extend this exceptional exhibition. It’s a unique part of computer history, and one that truly deserves the spotlight,” said John Hollar, CHM’s President and CEO.

The Museum’s Difference Engine No. 2 Exhibit is also made possible with the generosity of the following donors: Andreas Bechtolsheim, Bell Family Trust, Donna Dubinsky & Len Shustek, Judy Estrin, Fry’s Electronics – Kathryn Kolder, Dorrit & F. Grant Saviers, Marva & John Warnock, and with special thanks to Doron Swade, Director of the Babbage Project, who curated the Computer History Museum’s Babbage Engine Exhibit, and Science Museum, London.

Live demonstrations of the Engine take place at 2 p.m. on weekdays, and 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The Museum is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays from 12 noon to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

About the Difference Engine No. 2
Charles Babbage (1791-1871) is known as the visionary innovator whose designs for vast mechanical calculating engines rank as one of the startling achievements of the 19th century. His designs, however, remained on the drawing board for another 150 years due to his failed attempts at constructing the engines. This modern construction of Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 2 is the second of its kind, the first being the Engine housed at the Science Museum, London, completed in 2002. In both constructions a dedicated team of engineers, led by Doron Swade, Director of the Babbage Project, who curated the Computer History Museum’s Babbage Engine Exhibit, was responsible for the intense labor required to complete the working Engine as Babbage intended. Babbage’s engines are monumental in logical conception, physical size, and intricacy. Difference Engine No. 2 consists of 8,000 parts of bronze, cast iron, and steel. It weighs some five tons and measures 11 feet long and 7 feet high. The Engine, cranked by hand, automatically calculates and prints tables of polynomial functions to 31 decimal places.

For more information on Charles Babbage and his engines, please visit: http://www.computerhistory.org/babbage/.

To view Myhrvold and Swade’s lecture on Babbage and the Difference Engine No. 2, please visit:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1sEowi1Txc&feature=channel_page.

 

About the Computer History Museum
The Computer History Museum (CHM) in Mountain View, Calif., is a nonprofit organization with a four-decade history. The Museum is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of computer history, and is home to the largest international collection of computing artifacts in the world, encompassing computer hardware, software, documentation, ephemera, photographs and moving images.
 
CHM brings computer history to life through an acclaimed speaker series, dynamic website, onsite tours, as well as physical and online exhibits. Current exhibits include “Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 2,” “Mastering the Game: A History of Computer Chess,” “Innovation in the Valley” – a look at Silicon Valley startups – and the unique “Visible Storage Gallery,” featuring over 600 key objects from the collection.

The signature “Computer History: The First 2,000 Years” exhibit will open in late 2010.

For more information, visit www.computerhistory.org or call (650) 810-1010.

 


 

Press Contacts:
Fiona Tang
Computer History Museum
ftang@computerhistory.org
(650) 810-1036