Re: What databases have taught me

From: Pickie <>
Date: 27 Jun 2006 21:15:24 -0700
Message-ID: <>

Dan wrote:
> Pickie wrote:
> > Dan wrote:
> > ><SNIP> ... Babbage, Turing, Shannon, and many
> > > others did just fine. I now see the problems they solved, resolved in
> > > the worst possible ways with the state of the art tools and
> > > computational models. <SNIP>
> >
> > OK, I'll bite. What exactly can I learn (or re-learn) from Babbage?
> > What exactly does "doing just fine" mean with regard to Babbage when he
> > signally failed to build either one of his machines?
> >
> > Or is this just a variation of the lament for the lost *Truely*
> > Relational DBMS?
> Hey pickie,
> To your question, "what can I learn from..?", perhaps my statement was
> overly general, but I was trying to convey my appreciation for those
> that could describe a problem and solution using english and formalisms
> to solve problems, even without the benefit of tools and technology. I
> don't want to go on a rant here though. It is merely my own opinion
> and therefore subjective.
> In regards to Babbage's failures, I was under the impression his plans
> and specifications resulted in a perfectly functioning difference
> engine in the late 1900's, but that funding and such proved the barrier
> to him succeeding in his time. He still visualized a mechanical
> computer for solving problems without the benefit of having a computer
> or programming language and it had remarkable similarity of
> architecture to computers of our time.
> In regards to your last point. No. I am not one of those that does
> such lamenting.
> - Dan

You picked bad examples. The contributions of Turing and Shannon have not been lost at all - they underpin the way computers work. I don't think anyone is resolving their (Babbage, Turing and Shannon's) problems using state of the art tools and computational models "in the worst possible ways".

The accepted story is that Babbage did not have the technology available to him to build parts to the accuracy he required. However, the Science Museum in London built a working "Difference Engine No. 2" in 1989-1991 to accuracy achievable in Babbage's time, and using materials as similar to those he could use as possible. Babbage had made no attempt to build a No 2 machine.

The difference engine was to carry out a specific task - much like the earliest electronic computers. The analytical engine was to have been a general purpose machine. A similar inspiration worked in those who built the first general purpose electronic computers. In that sense we may be said to have solved Babbage's problem over again, but we didn't lose all that much by it. Received on Wed Jun 28 2006 - 06:15:24 CEST

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