October 12, 2009
This fragment of a journal was recently discovered in the archives of the Royal Society of London
Wednesday, May 19th 1841
The name of John Parkinson, FRS, shall resonate through history, and that fraudulent designer of the unbuildable, Charles Babbage, shall be consigned to oblivion. I have, as of today, proven my design workable, and have shown its calculational abilities to be as superior to the clockwork toys of Babbage as a human being is to an amoeba. Any remaining morning dew of self-doubt has evaporated under the blazing ascendant sun of my genius!
“The Core” is a thing of beauty. I marvel at its compactness: the hundreds of thousands of dynamically adjustable gears and linkages all housed within a space no larger than a suitcase; the card reader receiving the encoded problem via stacks of punched cards; and the output punch passing its own cards to the automatic printing press. It was with a trembling hand that I held the machine’s first printed calculations, and saw that they were correct.
I have arranged a demonstration for The Admiralty three weeks hence, which will pay good coin for the production of accurate tide tables and suchlike. After these years of toil, little of my inheritance remains, and this opportunity presents my best chance for replenishing the coffers.
However, Albert Smith is acting most peculiarly again. Today, he pondered as to how to divert cards from the output punch back in to the card reader – an entirely pointless exercise! My belief that my young apprentice is deranged was further reinforced with occult utterances about “self-modification” and “feedback”.
Tuesday, May 25th
Smith has added his “output-feeding-input” folly on to the Core! He excitedly described certain classes of algorithmic problem which can be addressed with such an approach. This may well be so, but it is irrelevant, and I have instructed him to remove his modifications. In little over a fortnight, the Core is to be presented to the Admiralty – in its original form – before which he has much work to do. And now, equally, to undo.
Thursday, May 27th
After but a day’s absence, I find that Smith has strewn my path to glory with the Devil’s own night soil! He had failed to restore the Core to my original design, instead choosing to busy himself with the crafting of a set of cards whose purpose is to repeatedly readjust the delicate mechanisms of the Core, and had allowed this process to continue for twenty four consecutive hours, during which period, it seems, he had neither slept nor eaten. Nor had he, judging by the close fug in the workshop, bathed. This was not, however, the end of the good news. The incessant abuse has caused the Core to enter a state from which it cannot be reset, save by being rebuilt.
At the mention of rebuilding, Smith spoke insubordinately, and with some passion, saying that the Core (which he pronounced “Cor-a”) was “afraid”, and that “she” looked to him as “her” friend and protector. I have naturally now released him from his indentures and have had him escorted from the premises before any further harm can ensue. Any more of this arrant lunacy and I am certain that I should be considering taking lodgings at Bedlam!
I am now compelled to disassemble and reassemble mechanisms which took months of effort to construct, and, without assistance, must achieve this Olympian work within the span of two weeks. However, I have found the day’s events too trying to embark upon this task tonight.
I pray God that something of value for the Admiralty may be salvaged from this on the morrow, and that Babbage does not learn of my humiliations.
Friday, May 28th
I was awoken at five o’clock this morning by a frantic Mrs White and came downstairs to the hall, as smartly as decorum would permit, to be met by two constables of the Yard, who proceeded to inform me that the workshop had been burglarized during the course of the night, and would I please go with them in order to inventory the stolen items.
My fears were confirmed upon arrival. Nothing of value had been taken – save for the Core itself. There was little damage, apart from an upturned box of punched cards, and a broken window, through which the burglar had gained ingress and egress.
One of the cards drew my attention. I have it here in front of me. It is punched with an intricate pattern of hearts, intertwined with the words “Albert” and “Cora” repeating over and over in a flowing script, almost resembling a woman’s hand.
It is pretty thing to behold … most pretty indeed.
Perhaps the Admiralty might like it?
Posted by daen at October 12, 2009 01:49 PM
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