Babbage's notes to be digitised for all

The Science Museum in London has agreed to plans which will see the sketches and notes made by Charles Babbage, the grandfather of computing, digitised and made publicly available.

The Museum's announcement comes after campaigners looking to create a fully-functional implementation of Babbage's Analytic Engine asked the Museum for access to the files located in its archives.

Designed in the 1830s, the Analytical Engine was to be Babbage's most ambitious creation: building on the work carried out on the Difference Engine, the Analytical Engine upgraded what was little more than an early calculator to a Turing-complete computer with input - punch cards - mechanical processing, and output to printer, plotter, or bell.

Sadly, while Babbage's designs are believed to be sound, the complexity of the project proved too much for the technology of his time. At the time of his death in 1871, only a small fraction of the Analytical Engine had been constructed.

Many are now working to create a simulation of the Analytical Engine using Babbage's original notes and plans, as a precursor to building a working implementation using modern construction methods. Efforts by John Graham-Cumming and the Science Museum's curator of computing, Doron Swade, to make the notes available to all will be invaluable in this process.

Sadly, it won't all be plain sailing. "There are some complete plans, they are just not totally complete. There will be a degree of interpretation," Graham-Cumming admitted to the BBC.

The project's members hope to complete the rebuild by 2021, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Babbage's death.