Page:Scientific Memoirs, Vol. 3 (1843).djvu/709

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ON BABBAGE'S ANALYTICAL ENGINE.

cially when the same individual is the author of both. Nevertheless the ideas which led to the Analytical Engine occurred in a manner wholly independent of any that were connected with the Difference Engine. These ideas are indeed in their own intrinsic nature independent of the latter engine, and might equally have occurred had it never existed nor been even thought of at all.

The second of the misapprehensions above alluded to, relates to the well-known suspension, during some years past, of all progress in the construction of the Difference Engine. Respecting the circumstances which have interfered with the actual completion of either invention, we offer no opinion; and in fact are not possessed of the data for doing so, had we the inclination. But we know that some persons suppose these obstacles (be they what they may) to have arisen in consequence of the subsequent invention of the Analytical Engine while the former was in progress. We have ourselves heard it even lamented that an idea should ever have occurred at all, which had turned out to be merely the means of arresting what was already in a course of successful execution, without substituting the superior invention in its stead. This notion we can contradict in the most unqualified manner. The progress of the Difference Engine had long been suspended, before there were even the least crude glimmerings of any invention superior to it. Such glimmerings, therefore, and their subsequent development, were in no way the original cause of that suspension; although, where difficulties of some kind or other evidently already existed, it was not perhaps calculated to remove or lessen them that an invention should have been meanwhile thought of, which, while including all that the first was capable of, possesses powers so extended as to eclipse it altogether.

We leave it for the decision of each individual (after he has possessed himself of competent information as to the characteristics of each engine), to determine how far it ought to be matter of regret that such an accession has been made to the powers of human science, even if it has (which we greatly doubt) increased to a certain limited extent some already existing difficulties that had arisen in the way of completing a valuable but lesser work. We leave it for each to satisfy himself as to the wisdom of desiring the obliteration (were that now possible) of all records of the more perfect invention, in order that the comparatively limited one might be finished. The Difference Engine would doubtless fulfil all those practical objects which it was originally destined for. It would certainly calculate all the tables that are more directly necessary for the physical purposes of life, such as nautical and other computations. Those who incline to very strictly utilitarian views, may perhaps feel that the peculiar powers of the Analytical Engine bear upon questions of abstract and speculative science, rather than upon those involving every-day and ordinary human interests. These persons being likely to possess but little sympathy, or possibly acquaintance, with any branches of science which they do not find to be useful (according to their definition of that word), may conceive that the undertaking of that engine, now that the other one is already in progress, would be a barren and unproductive laying out of yet more money and labour; in fact, a work of supererogation. Even in the utilitarian aspect, however, we do not doubt that very valuable practical results would be developed by the extended faculties of the Analytical Engine; some of which re-