Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Would you put a Difference Engine in your Living Room?

By now I'm sure you've all seen the articles on the arrival of the Difference Engine at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. What caught my eye, however, was this one bit:

The engine, built over a 3½-year period by engineers at London's Science Museum, will open May 10, and stay in the museum in Mountain View for one year -- after which it will take up residence in Myhrvold's living room.

Really? In his living room? I know Microsoft multimillionaires probably have very large living rooms, but I'm wondering exactly how you go about integrating a large, fragile computing machine into one. Make it a focal point instead of the fireplace? Use it as a room divider? Put cushions around it and make it a very large bench? I'm just a bit stymied. Perhaps when it moves to it's permanent home we'll be graced with a picture of it there as well.

However, if you'd like a bit of difference engine for your home, I recommend searching the Science and Society Picture Library for "Babbage" and they'd be happy to ship you a print or canvas of historical or modern aspects of Babbage's engine.


woolies said...

noooo...not in the living room. Maybe the garage? Gears look better in the garage.
so I am a bit late to the party, but have become recently fascinated with steampunk. I make pendants, and have started using steampunk images, and am always on the lookout for new ones.
too bad this one won't fit on a pendant...

Unknown said...

LOL... who wouldn't put one in their livingroom?! Mount a plasma screen TV in front and have all the gears and rods sticking out around the screen. Priceless!

Unknown said...

During the lecture at the Babbage lecture in May at the Computer History Museum, Nathan Myhrvold mentioned that his living room was three stories tall so that his life-sized Tyrannosaurus Rex fit. So I'm thinking that the Babbage Engine won't be so out of place after all. You can see the lecture here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=p1sEowi1Txc

Sara said...

chmweb -- wow, that must be some living room! I did some quick searches and can't find a picture of said living room, but I'll keep my eyes open.

Sara said...

The youtube lecture is *great*. Thank you for sharing it. I haven't gotten to the dinosaur in the living room, but I loved this story Swade told on Myhrvold:

"I asked him if it was OK if I spoke about polynomials... I had no idea he had 4 Ph.D.s"

"The engine was late, it was 2002, and I knew Nathan was building a house. So I said 'When do you need your engine?" On the other end of the phone there was a burst of laughter and he said 'one might question the use of the word need'

I'd assumed the gentlemen of Seattle, after supper, billiards, and brandy, knocked off a few polynomials."

twenty pound tabby said...

I wouldn't put a difference engine in my living room, but I definitely would consider a framed picture of one. I think it's beautiful.

rbottoms said...

No. But I will have Chris Garcia (Assistant Curator at the Computer History Museum where a Babbage Engine is housed) at the California Steampunk Convention this October to speak about the device.


Nexxo said...

Would I put a difference engine in the living room? YES!

...unless there is more space in the library/computer room.


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