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Dear Ada Lovelace,

Could you explain to me the difference between an Analytical Engine and a Difference Engine?


Andrew Mayne

Dear Andrew,

Well, I can’t really explain the Difference Engine to you. Babbage and I never completed the design for that before he died.

The Analytical Engine is quite different.

You see, the Difference Engine is based on numbers. That is, Babbage designed the engine so that when you push a button, it will either add or subtract the number you had previously entered. We think the engines will be very good for large-scale calculations. They will make up for a great deficit in computing power in England.

But Babbage and I imagined that a more exciting engine could be made — one that could understand English. If such a device could follow a string of English letters, then it would be able to actually solve any problem. It would be able to be creative. It would actually work as a mind.

We call this an “Analytical Engine.” Its only limit would be what was possible in mathematics. We would have true artificial intelligence.

Of course, we have not yet made this machine.

I hope that answers your question, Andrew.


Ada Lovelace