Charles Babbage (1791-1871) is a remarkable but ultimately tragic figure in the history of computing, known equally for designs that anticipated modern computing and for his failure to get any of them built. Recently, however, an international team led by Doron Swade, (pictured), of London's Science Museum successfully built the first-ever working models of Babbage's Difference Engine No. 2, one of which is currently on display at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. For ChannelWeb's extensive slide show and coverage of the Babbage Exhibit, click here.
Babbage and his sometime collaborator Augusta Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852), considered by some to be the first "computer programmer," are iconic figures in the Steampunk sub-culture. The gears and cranks of Babbage's incredibly complex computational engines serve as inspiration for Steampunk modders like Richard Nagy and Jake Von Slatt, who custom-build working computers with the look and feel of Victorian-era contraptions. Asked what he would say to Swade if he met him, Von Slatt replies: "I'd just shake his hand and sort of be in awe."