CUfilOUS QUESTIONS. 67
"Pray, Mr. Babbage, can you explain to me in two words " what is the principle of this machine ?'* Had the querist possessed a moderate acquaintance with matheifiatics I might in four words have conyeyed to him the required information by answering, "The method of differences." The question might indeed have been answered with six characters thus —
a'm, = 0.
but such information would have been uninteUigible to such inquirers.
On two occasions I have been asked, — " Pray, Mr. Babbage, " if you put into the machine wrong figures, Avill the right " answers come out ?" In one case a member of the Upper, and in the other a member of the Lower, House put this question. I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question. I did, however, explain the following property, which might in some measure approach towards an answer to it.
It is possible to construct the Analytical Engine in such a manner that after the question is once communicated to the engine, it may be stopped at any turn of the handle and set on again as often as may be desired. At each stoppage every figure- wheel throughout the Engine, which is capable of being moved without breaking, may be moved on to any other digit Yet after each of these apparent fsJsifications the engine will be found to make the next calculation with perfect truth.
The explanation is very simple, and the property itself useless. The whole of the mechanism ought of course to be enclosed in glass, and kept under lock and key, in which case the mechanism necessary to give it the property alluded to would be useless.