There's nothing new under the sun: scientists have announced that they are to build a nano version of a computer designed by Charles Babbage - just the 200 years ago.

As all true Fred Dibnah fans know, Babbage's iconic 'difference engine' was made up of more than 25,000 individual levers, ratchets and cogs. It was massive, mechanical and it weighed more than 13 tonnes, but it worked, churning out calculations. And the difference machine is therefore generally accepted to be a work of genius. By me, anyway.

Professor Robert Blick of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his team intend to build tiny computers based loosely on Babbage's machine. The mini-me difference machines will be used in areas such as the military or inside cars.

Nano mechanical devices are not susceptible to electromagnetic pulses, and they don't have to be built only of silicon, which can be delicate in robust situations.

Not unlike your author, then.