Page:Scientific Memoirs, Vol. 3 (1843).djvu/708

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
698
TRANSLATOR'S NOTES TO M. MENABREA'S MEMOIR

To this it may be replied that an analysing process must equally have been performed in order to furnish the Analytical Engine with the necessary operative data; and that herein may also lie a possible source of error. Granted that the actual mechanism is unerring in its processes, the cards may give it wrong orders. This is unquestionably the case; but there is much less chance of error, and likewise far less expenditure of time and labour, where operations only, and the distribution of these operations, have to be made out, than where explicit numerical results are to be attained. In the case of the Analytical Engine we have undoubtedly to lay out a certain capital of analytical labour in one particular line; but this is in order that the engine may bring us in a much larger return in another line. It should be remembered also that the cards when once made out for any formula, have all the generality of algebra, and include an infinite number of particular cases.

We have dwelt considerably on the distinctive peculiarities of each of these engines, because we think it essential to place their respective attributes in strong relief before the apprehension of the public; and to define with clearness and accuracy the wholly different nature of the principles on which each is based, so as to make it self-evident to the reader (the mathematical reader at least) in what manner and degree the powers of the Analytical Engine transcend those of an engine, which, like the Difference Engine, can only work out such results as may be derived from one restricted and particular series of processes, such as those included in \Delta^n u_x = 0. We think this of importance, because we know that there exists considerable vagueness and inaccuracy in the mind of persons in general on the subject. There is a misty notion amongst most of those who have attended at all to it, that two "calculating machines " have been successively invented by the same person within the last few years; while others again have never heard but of the one original "calculating machine," and are not aware of there being any extension upon this. For either of these two classes of persons the above considerations are appropriate. While the latter require a knowledge of the fact that there are two such inventions, the former are not less in want of accurate and well-defined information on the subject. No very clear or correct ideas prevail as to the characteristics of each engine, or their respective advantages or disadvantages; and, in meeting with those incidental allusions, of a more or less direct kind, which occur in so many publications of the day, to these machines, it must frequently be matter of doubt which "calculating machine" is referred to, or whether both are included in the general allusion.

We are desirous likewise of removing two misapprehensions which we know obtain, to some extent, respecting these engines. In the first place it is very generally supposed that the Difference Engine, after it had been completed up to a certain point, suggested the idea of the Analytical Engine; and that the second is in fact the improved offspring of the first, and grew out of the existence of its predecessor, through some natural or else accidental combination of ideas suggested by this one. Such a supposition is in this instance contrary to the facts; although it seems to be almost an obvious inference, wherever two inventions, similar in their nature and objects, succeed each other closely in order of time, and strikingly in order of value; more espe-