Sunday May 30, 2004

Fun With Meccano

When I was a kid, I wanted an Erector set very much. I think I must have asked for one for ChristmasOrMyBirthday several years in a row before I finally got one! But nothing I might ever have made from my Erector set could come close to the cool stuff that Tim Robinson has done with Mecanno.

Robinson says he's always been fascinated wwith Meccano, "almost exclusively with mechanism and models that 'do something real'." He recalls building "astronomical clocks, orreries, looms and other textile machinery, a gear cutting machine (which cut usable gears in brass), and perhaps most enduring, the differential analyzer (an analog computer)."

Wow.

His site features photos of a working differential analyzer as well as a small scale model of a difference engine.

[The differential analyzer] has four integrators each equipped with a two stage torque amplifier, a dual output table, and an input table. The modular construction makes it easy to extend, or to remove sections for maintenance.

Each leadscrew on the I/O tables or the integrators has a digital rotation counter attached, making initial setting of the machine simple and accurate.

...

[The difference engine] operates on principles very similar to Babbage's original designs, though the constraints of using only standard Meccano parts inevitably mean some aspects of the operation are somewhat different. The model can handle decimal numbers with up to four digits, and up to three orders of differences - similar in scope to the fragment of the original Difference Engine #1 which Babbage actually realized in 1832. There is no reason in principle (other than the limited world supply of 2 1/2" gears and ratchet wheels!) why it could not be extended to arbitrary sized numbers and an arbitrary order of differences.

...

Cooooool.

Fun With Meccano ( in category SciTech ) - posted at Sun, 30 May, 00:25 Pacific | «e»