Security Encyclopedia

Analytical Engine

The Analytical Engine was the first general-purpose computer on record.

Designed and proposed by Charles Babbage, father of the modern computer, the analytical engine was the successor to his Difference Engine. While the difference engine was more limited in its application, that of automating mathematical calculations, the analytical engine was a general-purpose mechanical computer capable of broader functionality and storage. Going further, the analytical engine is the first computationally universal or Turing-complete mechanical computer, being able to distinguish between different programming rule sets. To put that in perspective, Turing-completeness is a feature of all modern computers and programming languages, making the analytical engine a direct mechanical descendent of today’s electronic-era computers.

Babbage predicted that a functioning mechanical computer offers considerable gains to efficiency, and that such an appetite for this would give rise to a growing interest in how to leverage computers for this purpose. In essence, he predicted innovation in computer science from a philosophical perspective that, like his inventions, were realistic yet ahead of their time.


“Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine was the mechanical forerunner of today’s modern computers.”