My fascination with physical computing started with a simple impulse to give back and participate in my community. Living in the SF Bay Area affords several unique opportunities. One of these is volunteering with the Mountain View Computer History Museum. Through their volunteer program I was introduced to one of history's greatest machine designers. A mathematician, Charles Babbage, designed one of the first computer called Difference Engine No. 2. Frustrated with the surprising amount of errors found in printed calculation tables of his time, Babbage sought to create a machine that would print mathematical tables free of human error. While he was unsuccessful in constructing his machine during his lifetime, his drawings lived on and inspired a team of engineers in London to attempt to build Babbage's machine to prove his design. After great effort to replicate the available technologies of Babbage's time, the team of engineers successfully built the Difference Engine No. 2 which is able to calculate polynomials to the 7th degree with 30 digits of precision. It is an incredible work of engineering, craftsmanship, and mechanism design. It is fascinating to see numerical calculation embodied by a series of movements between gears and cams.
Video for context on Babbage and why he set out to build his machine.
I want to model this machine in CAD, however I learned that Michael Hilton has already done this with the help of Tim Robinson. Here is a link to his annotated video explaining how the calculation works.
Learning more about physical calculators, I found the Curta Calculator to be another beautifully, amazing tool.
This masterpiece is now on display at the Computer History Museum where I am training to become one of its operators.