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Although Charles Babbage is mainly famous for his computing inventions, he also invented a number of other items and researched into many other ideas.
Charles Babbage computer inventions
Babbage drew up plans for three main computing systems in his life.
- Difference Engine: The Difference Engine was the first of Babbage's inventions. He designed it in the 1820s and then built it with funding he obtained. The name comes from the method of divided differences which is used to interpolate or tabulate functions by using a small set of polynomial coefficients.
- Difference Engine 2: The Difference Engine 2 was the second of Babbage's inventions. Babbage designed this mechanical computing engine but did not live to see one built.
- Analytical Engine: Babbage's Analytical Engine was a design that was undertaken to create a mechanical general-purpose computer. Babbage first mentioned the Analytical Engine in 1837 and it was the successor to his difference engine. The Analytical Engine incorporated all the elements of a modern day computer: an arithmetic logic unit, control flow in the form of conditional branching and loops, and integrated memory. The programming was to be undertaken using punched cards. Ada Lovelace wrote instructions for it, although she was never able to implement them because Babbage did not succeed in realising it is a real form. However the fact that she wrote a programme for it made her the first computer programmer.
Babbage's other inventions
Babbage invented what he termed the pilot. Today it is known as a cow-catcher. It was a metal frame attached to the front of railway locomotives used to clear the tracks of obstacles in 1838. He also performed several studies on Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Western Railway.
Babbage and cryptography
Charles Babbage also achieved notable results in cryptography. Using his mathematical experiste he broke Vigenère's autokey cipher which was thought to be unbreakable. He also broke the weaker cipher called the Vigenère cipher.
Babbage's discovery was used to aid English military campaigns and therefore news of his achievement was not published until several years later. By this time Friedrich Kasiski was credited with the achievement even though he made the same discovery some years after Babbage.