Boffinry group shakes tin for effort to build Babbage's Analytical Engine

Doesn't rule out Kickstarter at some point in future

The group behind the attempt to build Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine has started accepting donated funding for the first stage of the project, a 3D computer simulation.

Plan 28 want to start the ancient computer build with a 3D working simulation, computer historian John Graham-Cumming said.

For that, the group, started by Graham-Cumming, will need £250,000, which it's hoping to gather from supporters on JustGiving, a charity donation site.

Plan 28 will study all Babbage documentation, which has been digitised by the Science Museum, to build the simulation.

"When done that'll be the first time anyone has seen the AE in action, albeit a computer, physical simulation," Graham-Cumming said on Hacker News.

The BBC had reported that the group was against using Kickstarter to fund the project, but Graham-Cumming corrected Auntie, saying Plan 28 might go back to the crowdfunding website once it was ready to start on the actual Engine.

"Implicit in the Kickstarter process is that the amount of money asked for is enough to make the project happen. In the case of Plan 28 that's likely £5m over ten years. But also Kickstarter is 'all or nothing' so we could have found ourselves falling short of the money we need and receiving nothing," he wrote on his blog.

"All these things lead us to conclude that working with JustGiving made more sense. We may return to Kickstarter when we start to build the actual machine and the end is in sight, but for the moment we are going the traditional fund-raising route."

He also mentioned that Kickstarter fees were quite high and Plan 28, as a charity, would be able to claim back tax on donations and that would be very hard to run through the crowdfunding site.

The Analytical Engine was designed by Charles Babbage in the 1800s and Ada Lovelace allegedly wrote mathematic programmes for it. The steam-powered, brass and iron computer was never built. ®

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