Kevin Harvey/Rex Shutterstock
At the dawn of the 1960s, New Scientist(4 December 1960), now best known for being the man behind the concept of a programmable computer. Less well known is that he spent 20 years, his personal fortune and a stack of British government money on the project.
Even less well known is how the strain got to him. “If your ideas are a hundred years in advance of your times, it is never easy to get your contemporaries to sympathise with them,” we sympathised. “But Babbage clearly made matters far worse than they need have been by his intolerance, irascibility, vainness and unwillingness to compromise. When he died in 1871 he was better known for his vehement hatred of governments, street musicians and barrel organs than for his genius.”
Had he been around in 1976, Babbage would have found life a little more to his liking. We reported then that USon items to construct their own computers (23/30 December 1976). It was the start of a world we now take for granted: not only do most homes have computers, so do most pockets and handbags. As we said: “Some believe micro-computers will have more impact on our lives than electricity or automobiles.”
By 2004, that new world had essentially arrived with the advent of, for example,by comparing the modus operandi of known villains (4 December 2004).
Critics might argue that this is little more than experienced cops have been doing for decades, but we insisted that the Classification System for Serial Criminal Patterns would not be used cynically to round up the usual suspects. In fact, it would be a money-saver used mainly to fight “common crimes” which do not usually “warrant the resources given to murder enquiries”.
Presumably Charles Babbage would have added organ grinding to any list of “common crimes”.
(Image credit: Kevin Harvey/Rex Shutterstock)
More on these topics:
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.