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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Sketch of the Analytical Engine Updated

I've always considered The Analytical Engine one of the principal attractions at Fourmilab, despite the stubborn evidence of access statistics showing that it is little frequented. The Java emulator for Babbage's Analytical Engine is the main interactive resource, but a collection of original documents including L. F. Menabrea's Sketch of the Analytical Engine translated and annotated by Ada Augusta, Countess of Lovelace, which contains the first computer program ever published, provides the historical background for the simulator.

Most of the documents and programs in this corner of the site were developed in 1997–1998 and are beginning to show their age. I've just posted a completely revised and updated edition of the Sketch of the Analytical Engine which is XHTML 1.0 compliant and uses Unicode text entities for typographical symbols which weren't available when the first edition was published. All of the figures have been remade as high-resolution antialiased PNG images, and presentation is delegated to a CSS 2.1 style sheet.

If you'd like to compare the readability of the old and new versions, click their respective links to open them in separate windows, position them side by side, and judge for yourself. There are numerous documents in The Analytical Engine Web tree; this is the first and, so far, only one to be updated. It is, however, by far the largest and most complicated, and if no complaints result from this update, it will serve as the model for the rest.

Posted at February 18, 2006 23:00