Computing

 
Children in Computing gallery

Overview

This gallery traces the development of early computers through examples of calculating machines used by people over time and from other areas of the world.

There's a section looking at the work of Charles Babbage through reconstructions of his Analytical and Difference Engines, his original drawings and notebooks, a video of his calculating engines in action and touchscreen diplays. There some mention of the people Babbage worked with, including mathematician, Ada Lovelace. The centrepiece of this section is the huge Difference Engine No. 2 which Babbage finished designing in 1849 but which wasn't built until 1991 when the Science Museum constructed it from the original plans using components manufactured to the engineering standards of Babbage's day.

The gallery also houses:

  • a reconstructed 1930s punched card office, representing the move from manual to automated processing of information for payroll, stock control, insurance policies etc. by commercial and industrial companies.
  • the giant 1956 Ferranti Pegasus, the oldest working computer in the world (it is switched on and run regularly).
  • ERNIE, the random number generator used to determine Premium Bond winners in the UK for many years. As well as explaining how the random numbers were generated, information panels explain the social context of why Premium Bonds were inroduced and how the general public took ERNIE to heart. 

There's an older display charting the history of computing from punched card machines to the computing technologies that were current in the 1970s when this gallery opened.

The Computing gallery will allow students to compare the technologies used in the past with the ICT they are familiar with today, and consider the impact of ICT on people's lives.

The related galleries below will allow you to continue an ICT-themed visit. You could also ask students to look out for ways in which the Science Museum uses ICT to enhance the visitor experience, for example through touchscreen interactives, digital signage and motionride simulators.

Please note that this gallery contains half of Charles Babbage's brain which was preserved after his death. (Read our policy on displaying human remains.)

Duration:
Suggested 20-30 minutes
Suitable for:
age 11 upwards
Places per session:
not applicable
Pre-booking req'd:
no
Supervisory ratio:
1:15
Cost:
free

Related links

Related galleries