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Tag: History

Way, way back in the prehistory of computing, Charles Babbage built the first machines that could be called a computer.

The first calculating machine he came up with was the Difference Engine in 1822, which has since been reconstructed several years ago. This was basically just a giant, complicated calculator.

While Babbage was building the Difference Engine, he came up with the concept of the Analytical Engine, which he worked on from 1837 until his death in 1871, although never actually finished it.

This machine was technically the world’s first computer, and was powered by steam.

Now, there is a group trying to recreate the Analytical Engine, known as Plan 28. It is an extremely ambitious project, and they will be needing a huge amount of funding to manage it.

I am very interested to see how this project progresses.


A few days ago I tweeted a thought that occurred to me on the way home from work.

In the middle ages, the Vikings invaded large parts of Europe and generally caused two centuries of chaos. In many modern history books, they are considered savage barbarians looting and pillaging.

Now, what then can we say about the European “colonial” powers that emerged from the late 1400′s onwards? Weren’t we just as savage?

Think about this for a bit. For a period of about 400 years, most of the world was partitioned off to a few European countries. Spain focused on the Americas, Portugal on bits of Africa and America, France on Canada and Africa, Netherlands on Asia and the West Indies, Belgium on the Congo, and the English on just about everywhere.

All of the territories claimed by the countries listed above were claimed as colonies, and the history books denote explorers from these countries as being the first to “discover” them. Never mind that there were actually people already living there – some of which even had fairly sophisticated cultures.

Countries like Russia and China also expanded rapidly during those periods, but they merely conquered surrounding lands. They may have had the might to overcome their neighbours, but they at least did not hide behind the excuse of “colonialism”.

When the world was colonised by Europe, it was not done in a simple peaceful manner, but rather led to largescale destruction of the local population and their culture, by direct methods such as genocide (as happened in the Congo, for example) as well as indirect methods such as western diseases.

To add insult to injury, the colonisers had the audacity to believe that their way of life and religious views were superior to that of the people which had lived on their land for thousands of years. Christianity was forced upon entire continents.

One particular example of the destructiveness of this is that a vast majority of the Mayan writings were destroyed by Spanish missionaries trying to convert the local people to Christianity, and in the process losing much of the knowledge we could have of the Mayans.

Being European myself, these atrocities were committed by some of my ancestors, but I am not trying to apologise for our behaviour. I just am trying to get across the message that men are all the same, no matter where in history, or heights of civility we are.

We are no better than the marauding Vikings, and I certainly think it would be foolish to believe that we have learnt any better in our modern age we find ourselves now…


As they always say, there are always three sides to every story, there is the one side, the other side, and then you have the truth. History is far from an exact science, with history often being written by the victor, and even if not, most historians have some bias. That is , I suppose, what makes a modern historian’s job fun.

Well, this little book was a very entertaining read for me. It certainly won’t live up to intense academic scrutiny, and most of the facts in it are not going to change the world in any way, but what I liked most about this book is it makes you think and question. Did history really happen the way the history book portray, or is the story a little deeper than that. In that, this book excels.

I have heard people complain that the book is too fragmented, consisting mainly of a bunch of facts lumped together, but I think that that allows the book to be enjoyed in small bits, grabbing a chance to read a page or two every now and again.