A Steampunk History of a World at War

Calculating Engines

nimda's picture
Tuesday, 1 February 1820

In the world of Voidships the initial disappointment and lack of success of Babbage is the same as it is in the real world. Namely, his failure to create a working Difference Engine that could calculate and print logarithms and other such tables.

These difficulties mainly down to the fact that Babbage was always thinking of better ways to do things and so projects lengthened. What today we would call "feature creep". It was in 1842 that Babbage lost his commission from the British Government to produce the machine to print error-free tables because of the time taken and also because Babbage had already announced his Analytical Engine so undermining the existing project. One year before Faraday changed everything.

In 1855 the Government decided it needed Difference Engines and actually bought one built by Swedish inventor [Bad Link: Plugin Not Found], who based his machines on Babbage's work.

With the development of flying vehicles and faster ships the British Government once again decided to back Babbage, this time for a working Analytical Engine and this time with Babbage's son in charge of the main project and manufacture, to keep his father focused on the job in hand. In addition a new college was created to train the men to maintain, program and operate the Analytical Engines: the Royal Military College of Computationers, (or Adas as they are usually called).

The advent of space travel in 1896 it was quickly discovered that navigation was a serious problem (the loss of several experimental vessels soon taught the Royal Navy that going into space was not simple). The solution was steam-driven analytical engines of enormous size run by Adas working in exotic (for the time) algebraic systems trying to solve real-time three-dimensional vector equations.

The export of Analytical Engines was forbidden but other inventors already knew the tricks and, though less well developed, Scheu's Engines were commonly used outside of the UK.