Talk:The Difference Engine

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Analog vs digital[edit]

I thought Babbages difference engine was analog bc it depended on the rotational values of gears for stored numbers. The fictional version might be different though I dont recall. vroman

No, not accurate. As envisioned, the machine employed columns of "discs" painted with the ten digits and able to move in fixed increments. That sounds like the very definition of "digital" (just not binary).
Agreed. Both Babbage's difference engine and his analytic engine were digital computers; decimal digital computers rather than binary digital computers but undoubtedly completely digital. Analogue computers are incapable of reaching the accuracy that Babbage's machines were theoretically capable of. In fact there are few if any modern computers which are capable of reaching that accuracy without software emulation. The final version of Babbage's analytic machine design was a 50-digit machine. In modern terms that is a 166-bit machine. -- 01:20, 7 September 2006 (UTC)


Is the guy who helps Sybil out of the kino theatre John Butler Yeats? We need a full list of referenced people!!... -- NIC1138 00:50, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

A lot of this stuff is in the The Difference Dictionary

Cheers, Pete Tillman 21:57, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

Effect of Popular Culture[edit]

I cleaned up all the spelling, grammar, and diction mistakes, but I still think that section is worthles. It sounds like a Bill Bailey fan trying to intellectualize the object of his devotion.
—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

I agree. Recommend DELETION of this section. Pete Tillman 21:59, 5 January 2007 (UTC)
It's gone. No more Bill Bailey. He's history. Unless someone puts him back, of course. Then he's not. History, I mean.
Gardener of Geda 22:42, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

Punched Cards...[edit]

It's odd. After reading this book, i got the impression that the punched cards were an early computer virus, not related to the Incompleteness Theorem? - Peter Bjørn Perlsø 00:56, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

The cards do relate to the Incompleteness Theorem, but, yes, I always thought there was more to them than that. It's been a while since I've read the novel, but I seem to remember thinking that the authors were trying to suggest, at the end, the emergence of some kind of nascent artificial intelligence.
Gardener of Geda 12:27, 7 January 2007 (UTC)
If you're referring to how the French "Grand Napoleon" gets all messed up in the book, I think it was eventually (like near the end) explained that the punch cards sent the engine into a self-referential recursive loop and that's what made it not work. So the cards did do some harm, like a virus, but that was only due to the limitations of the engine they were run on, not by the design of the program. Mooser323 (talk) 04:27, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

"Americas as America": ¿Worthy of mention?[edit]

The article as written reads "Additionally, all land in the Americas are colloquially referred to as America" and goes on with a quote for illustrating that point. I don´t know how it´s refered in the UK or other english-speaking countries, but pretty much everywhere else not in the U.S.A. "America" ( specially here in latin america ) denotes the entire continent from pole to pole, not the U.S. of "it". Therefore I think it´s not an Alternate History fact, but a real and common fact about the world we live in; and so nothing to note here. Plus, most people from "the Americas" tend to find that distinction offensive... See, for example: ( Brazil section ).

I don´t edit it myself because i haven´t read the book and so i´m not 100% positive about the use of the word in there.

Gorsh ( haven´t signed yet to wikipedia )

As someone who has worked in a hostel, I can say that usage is nowhere near standard. Travelers from Western Europe tend to prefer saying "The States" but often alternate with "America," while those from Eastern European or Asian countries almost always prefer "America." Travelers from South and Latin America will, as you say, almost always understand "America" to be both New World continents. Interestingly, Canada seems to be split English-speaking/French-speaking on the use of this terminology. Although neither is globally common, I'd say that this particular usage is understood by enough people to merit inclusion.
-OrinR (talk) 22:45, 17 January 2009 (UTC)

Help for us provincial USA readers?[edit]

The plot summary assumes that the Wikipedia reader is familiar with British history and the history of science. Probably most USA readers don't know what the Luddite Riots were, for example, or who Ada Lovelace was. Some writer in a previous paragraph didn't know who Keats was. More background please? CharlesTheBold (talk) 00:05, 8 April 2009 (UTC)

Fortunately for us provincial Americans, we can simply click on Luddites, Ada Lovelace, and Keats, and we'll immediately be taken to Wikipedia articles that will suitably enlighten us. The same trick will also work for provincial non-Americans who are unfamiliar with the Confederate States of America and the Republic of Texas. HMishkoff (talk) 01:46, 8 April 2009 (UTC)

Literary criticism and significance?[edit]

I'm a bit skeptical of this section -- it smells like self-promotion. Two of the academics names link to entries that seem like they could be self-authored. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:52, 22 July 2010 (UTC)


The final chapter of the novel, set in 1991, describes, from the computer's point of view, the arrival of a state of self-awareness. It therefore alludes that the narrative content of the novel have been assembled from data stored in the engines memory, that indeed, they are its "memory" of itself. (talk) 19:26, 6 September 2013 (UTC)