Babbage Machines

Iain: Did I mention that things get a bit weird here at Green Man sometimes?

Jack: things are always weird here — it’s just a matter of how weird they are!

Grey: And yes, we’ve mentioned it. Many times. Jack says it most often.

Jack: Only ’cause it’s true. Sometimes.

Ahem. Ignore them as they can go on for quite a while arguing, and instead consider the matter of the man who truly believes in Babbage Machines… Yes, the ones that form the basis of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine and are also in S.M. Stirling’s The Peshawar Lancers. I thought they were a mere whimsey of a mad engineer, but apparently not!

This fellow was in the Pub last week explaining to all who would listen that he was doing research on the history of these computing devices, which he said actually existed. I told him I have no doubt that the Green Man library has material on these machines. Apparently, they were the size of railroad cars, and they might have been shunted around an England that never was. (The library also has maps of such places as the Republic of Northumbria — where I am a citizen — and commentaries on music that was not written in this universe, let alone performed. Not to mention the writings of Mad Merlin himself, who supposedly visits us every few centuries.)

I don’t believe everything I hear, but his tale was told so well that we could picture the clacking of the immense gears in the Machines, the hiss of their coal powered engines, and the multitudes of mathematicians running around them. Liath, our Archivist, was so impressed by his storytelling that she granted him access to all of the material in the library — even the things she has not yet archived — in hopes he might find something that would truly earn him accolades from his peers.

Illustration is that the Analytical Machine built by Charles Babbage himself.

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