Babbage’s Calculating Machine or Difference Engine




This film is a live-action, close-up study of the only existing Babbage Difference Engine. The machine was designed in the early 1800s by Charles Babbage, an English inventor and mathematician, and later built by his son Henry.

The engine, designed to calculate and print out tables of numbers for use in navigation, insurance, and astronomy, is an important artifact in computer history. Babbage is considered to be the father of the modern computer, and his Difference Engine and Analytical Machine are among the forerunners of the modern electronic computer. The film provides a rare opportunity to view the Difference Engine in action.

The Eames Office worked on this project for the Computer Origins section of the proposed IBM Corporation Museum. Charles, assisted by Bruce Collier of Harvard University and staff member Parke Meek, filmed the machine in the Science Museum in South Kensington, London, where it is housed.

The musical accompaniment was performed by Carl Dolmetsch and the Dolmetsch Consort on an Angel recording.


3 minutes, 50 seconds.  Black and white.