The Difference Engine
Copyright 1990 by
William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
I first read this in November 1993 and most recently on the 29th August 2006
William Gibson and Bruce Sterling create an alternate Steampunk world in which
Charles Babbage has successfully built his Difference Engine* and
thereby welcomed in the world of automatic computing, albeit mechanical
rather than electronically, more than a century earlier than in reality.
We follow a number of characters, both historical and fictional, as
they interact around the exceptional Lady Lovelace, Ada Byron and the
changing political climes of radical and revolutionary Britain.
However, I'm not much enthused with this novel. Some small sections are
moving written with Gibson's characteristic deftness, but most of the novel,
while entertaining and thought-provoking simply doesn't engross me.
It does occur belatedly to me that in this alternate world, the new
resource of mechanical computation has not been used to expand or
modernise the Empire, merely to humble and further enslave the working
man in England, and of course there's a increasingly relevant lesson
for our own government in this.
But I quite probably misread the back cover, so I've may got that
*Now I didn't get where I am today by knowing much about the history
of computer science, but surely it's the Analytical Engine this should be
Loaded on the 29th March 2007.