Page:Scientific Memoirs, Vol. 3 (1843).djvu/698

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L. F. MENABREA ON BABBAGE'S ANALYTICAL ENGINE.

tions afforded by the use of numerical tables. It would be equally possible to introduce, by means of these cards, the logarithms of numbers; but perhaps it might not be in this case either the shortest or the most appropriate method; for the machine might be able to perform the same calculations by other more expeditious combinations, founded on the rapidity with which it executes the four first operations of arithmetic. To give an idea of this rapidity, we need only mention that Mr. Babbage believes he can, by his engine, form the product of two numbers, each containing twenty figures, in three minutes.

Perhaps the immense number of cards required for the solution of any rather complicated problem may appear to be an obstacle; but this does not seem to be the case. There is no limit to the number of cards that can be used. Certain stuffs require for their fabrication not less than twenty thousand cards, and we may unquestionably far exceed even this quantity[1].

Resuming what we have explained concerning the Analytical Engine, we may conclude that it is based on two principles: the first, consisting in the fact that every arithmetical calculation ultimately depends on four principal operations—addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division; the second, in the possibility of reducing every analytical calculation to that of the coefficients for the several terms of a series. If this last principle be true, all the operations of analysis come within the domain of the engine. To take another point of view: the use of the cards offers a generality equal to that of algebraical formulæ, since such a formula simply indicates the nature and order of the operations requisite for arriving at a certain definite result, and similarly the cards merely command the engine to perform these same operations; but in order that the mechanisms may be able to act to any purpose, the numerical data of the problem must in every particular case be introduced. Thus the same series of cards will serve for all questions whose sameness of nature is such as to require nothing altered excepting the numerical data. In this light the cards are merely a translation of algebraical formulæ, or, to express it better, another form of analytical notation.

Since the engine has a mode of acting peculiar to itself, it will in every particular case be necessary to arrange the series of calculations conformably to the means which the machine pos-

  1. See Note F.