Plan 28 is working towards building Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine. For the latest news follow the Plan 28 blog.
Tim Robinson has started writing up findings following the review of the complete Babbage manuscript archive. The initial work is in the form of an overview centred on each of the ‘Plans’ i.e. the large ‘systems drawings’ that Babbage shed during the evolution of the designs. The intention was to put to one side further detailed work, for the moment at least, to take stock and to document broad-stroke findings and new insights.
Excavating further the hardly-known Plan 30 (there is a Plan 28a but seemingly no Plan 29) proved irresistible both for inherent interest and for completeness. Babbage restarted work on the AE designs in June 1857 after a break of almost a decade and referred to the machine as ‘Analytical Engine 30’.
With the first-pass inspection of the manuscript archive complete, attention has turned to analysis and interpretation, and organising the findings to aid navigation. Babbage shed versions of the design as it developed in the form of ‘Plans’ – large ‘systems drawings’ which serve as developmental staging posts – the main ones of which number Plan 1 through to Plan 28. The overall approach to analysing the accumulated data is that of a timeline that groups all material, from wherever in the archive (drawings, Notebooks, Notations), to each of the landmark Plans.
The significance of the design advances for each Plan is identified as each is reviewed and evaluated, whether, for example, a new Plan involves a major design reset or only incremental change.
The Babbage technical archive held by the Science Museum has been reviewed sheet by sheet so the reference sources of AE-related content are now known. After a short hiatus Tim Robinson is carrying out the same exercise on the Babbage material in the Buxton papers held in Oxford. This material is of particular interest not least because there are several essays Babbage wrote on the Analytical Engine while in Italy immediately after his visit to Turin in 1840 where he gave his first and only seminar-lecture on the Analytical Engine at a convention of mathematicians, surveyors and scientists. This rare engagement with others was a significant stimulus to Babbage so his writings immediately following this are of special interest. We have done two substantial photo shoots (2015, 2016 and 2018) of this manuscript material, so digitised images are to hand.