Babbage boffins build heavyweight printer

New device not ideal for mobile use

In a world fixated with time-to-market issues, it is refreshing to discover a newly launched printer that has been a mere 150 years in development. The London Science Museum has completed a mechanical printer originally designed by Charles Babbage as an output device for his Difference Engine, widely regarded to be the first computer. Although Babbage never completed the Difference Engine, largely due to the relatively unsophisticated engineering processes of the 19th Century, boffins at the museum successfully built one from his original drawings in 1991. Now the 2.5 ton monster printer is complete, navigation tables produced by the mechanical computer - no luggable itself, weighing in at 3 tons - can be automatically printed. And the printer is surprisingly advanced. It can text wrap and can be programmed for different column widths and line spacing. It can even produce printing plates for use in a conventional printing press. ® World's first erratumnotbug Science Museum technicians claim that they found a number of mistakes in the design of both the Difference Engine and the new printer, which they believe were deliberately included by Babbage in a bid to prevent industrial espionage. The same excuse is, of course, used today by leading chip makers to explain inadequacies in their products. Related story Byron's daughter was first programmer... NOT

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