The first computer is one of the most iconic inventions in history. The fact that we use computers so extensively today would not be possible without the invention of this machine. The first computer revolutionized nearly every industry and changed how humans interact with information.

Computer technology has developed to such a point that even the most basic pocket calculator can outperform the first general-purpose computer at complex arithmetic tasks. It’s also worth mentioning that there were other computing devices before Charles Babbage and his Analytical Engine, but they weren’t general-purpose like him. Let’s take a closer look at some facts about the first computer you might not know.

**Charles Babbage invented the first computer, called the Difference Engine.**

The first Difference Engine was made up of 25,000 parts, weighing 13.6 tons and was 2.4m high. It was designed to tabulate polynomial functions and was programmed using a set of gears and cams. The machine was designed to be self-sufficient and operate without human intervention.

The Difference Engine was designed to be extremely accurate and function without fail. Babbage designed the Difference Engine to calculate polynomial functions using a system of gears. If a function is expressed as a polynomial expression with only addition and subtraction, it can be tabulated directly using a system of gears. It was designed to be used in an environment with little or no error which is why it was originally built with so many parts.

Babbage intended it to be used in an environment of no error, so he built it with a lot of parts. Babbage attempted to build this machine once in 1822 and then again in 1847. The first version was never completed because Babbage ran out of funds. The second version was only partially completed, with only one-third of the parts needed. Babbage had originally planned to build 20 of these engines and use them to compile mathematical tables that could be used for navigation.

**The first Difference Engine was made up of 25,000 parts, weighing 13.6 tons and was 2.4m high.**

It was designed to tabulate polynomial functions and was programmed using a set of gears and cams. The machine was designed to be self-sufficient and operate without human intervention. The Difference Engine was designed to be extremely accurate and function without fail.

Babbage designed the Difference Engine to calculate polynomial functions using a system of gears. If a function is expressed as a polynomial expression with only addition and subtraction, it can be tabulated directly using a system of gears. It was designed to be used in an environment with little or no error which is why it was originally built with so many parts. Babbage intended it to be used in an environment of no error, so he built it with a lot of parts.

Babbage attempted to build this machine once in 1822 and then again in 1847. The first version was never completed because Babbage ran out of funds. The second version was only partially completed, with only one-third of the parts needed. Babbage had originally planned to build 20 of these engines and use them to compile mathematical tables that could be used for navigation.

**From 1989 to 1991, using Babbage’s plans for this second version, the London Science Museum constructed Babbage’s envisaged machine.**

The Difference Engine No. 2 was built with public funding. It’s estimated that the machine cost approximately $750,000 to create. The engine was built to Babbage’s exact plans, with only one or two slight modifications. The machine was assembled in London’s Science Museum and performed flawlessly when put to test in 1991.

The major difference between Babbage’s 1847 version of the Difference Engine and the one built in 1989 was the materials used: Babbage’s machine was made out of 18 metals, specifically brass, iron, and steel. The Difference Engine No. 2 used only 10 metals, with no iron whatsoever.

The machine weighed about 3 tons and was about 1.5m high. It was created by a team of engineers, mathematicians, and craftsmen led by Mike Haig, who became the curator of mechanical engineering at the Science Museum after the project was completed.

**The Difference Engine No. 2 was built with public funding.**

It’s estimated that the machine cost approximately $750,000 to create. The engine was built to Babbage’s exact plans, with only one or two slight modifications. The machine was assembled in London’s Science Museum and performed flawlessly when put to test in 1991. The major difference between Babbage’s 1847 version of the Difference Engine and the one built in 1989 was the materials used: Babbage’s machine was made out of 18 metals, specifically brass, iron, and steel.

The Difference Engine No. 2 used only 10 metals, with no iron whatsoever. The machine weighed about 3 tons and was about 1.5m high. It was created by a team of engineers, mathematicians, and craftsmen led by Mike Haig, who became the curator of mechanical engineering at the Science Museum after the project was completed.

**The Difference Engine No. 2 performed as Babbage had intended over a century before.**

The Difference Engine No. 2 was put to test and successfully operated as Babbage had intended in 1822. The machine was programmed to compute a table of numbers and was able to create the output with no errors. The Difference Engine No. 2 was able to calculate numbers at a rate of one number every 2.5 seconds, far too slow for practical use with the technology of Babbage’s time.

However, with modern technology, the machine sped up to 100 numbers per second and would have been up to the task of producing a table of numbers in a single day. In 2000, Babbage’s printer, designed to print out the results of the Engine, was also completed. The printer was also able to perform flawlessly, creating a table of numbers in the correct sequence.

**From the First computer to the modern computer and personal computer we have today**

Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 2 proved that his design was sound and that the engine was capable of performing as the inventor had intended. It was fully functional, operated at the correct speed, and performed without error and as intended. Babbage attempted to build the engine twice.

The first version was never completed and was only partially built. The second version was completed in 1989 and proved that Babbage’s design was sound and that the first computer was capable of performing as intended.