anthr_of_comp3

anthr_of_comp3 - 21A.350 / SP.484J / STS.086 The...

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21A.350 / SP.484J / STS.086 The Anthropology of Computing Fall 2004 MIT THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AND CALCULATING ENGINES: ANALYTICS OF CAPTIAL AND GENDER DIFFERENCE IN THE WORK OF CHARLES BABBAGE AND ADA LOVELACE Lecture 3. September 27 CHARLES BABBAGE You’ve read some biographical material about Babbage in the Schaffer article. Let me add a few things. And locate his work with respect to issues we talked about last time. Babbage was a mathematician who first rose to notoriety when he wrote a paper for the Royal Astronomical Society, in London in 1822, arguing that it might be possible to mechanize the calculation of astronomical mathematical tables. Note the cosmos, the ordered universe, again! The machine was touted as a device that might mechanize intellectual labor, and he appealed to the British government to fund it. Babbage’s writing was wide ranging; he published on mathematics, machinofacture, economics, and later in his life, theology. He called this machine the Difference Engine. And you read his account of this never- built device in the excerpts. How did you understand this Engine to work? “based on the mathematical principle that the successive differences of values of polynomials were ultimately constants, so tables of these values could be computed by addition and subtraction of predetermined constants” (Schaffer 1994: p. 206). Difference Engine could only do one task, since, in present terms, there was no ; you’d have to build new machine for each problem. This was the problem that stalled Pascal in selling his accounting machine (which could only add and subtract, only using French currency divisions). In other words, the logic was built into the structure of the machine. This brings up history parallel to that of calculating machines – and that is history of AUTOMATA, machines that mimicked the behavior of people, animals, in which the logic of operation is inseparable from the machine itself. Babbage was a big fan of these devices (p. 16). Some of devices invited philosophers to speculate that humans were automata.
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La Mettrie wrote Man, A Machine : humans were machines, mind and body both. He argued against Descartes that humans were a compound of the material and immaterial [read selections — including abt gender] Automata; we can revisit some of this history when we get to cybernetics and Artificial Life. Back to the problems with Difference Engine — the overlap/identification/confounding of a particular logic system with its material instantiation, was a problem the Analytical Engine was meant to solve; this was to be a general computing device. How was this to work? It would have a “store” and a “mill.” (p. 55) (what we think of today as memory and CPU: and, indeed, even in his sketch for a difference engine, Babbage wrote “The mechanical means I employed to make these carriages [the carrying of numbers in calculation] bears some slight analogy to the operation of the faculty of memory” (p. 48).)
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This note was uploaded on 11/09/2011 for the course ARCH 4.401 taught by Professor Utemetabauer during the Fall '06 term at MIT.

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anthr_of_comp3 - 21A.350 / SP.484J / STS.086 The...

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