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Sunday, 20 October 2013


In 1642 Blaise Pascal designed and built a mechanical adding machine. It was the first mechanical calculator in history.

On June 14, 1822 English mathematician Charles Babbage proposed a difference engine, an automatic, mechanical calculator designed to tabulate polynomial functions. The proposal was made in a paper presented to the Royal Astronomical Society, titled "Note on the application of machinery to the computation of astronomical and mathematical tables". His proposed machine used the decimal number system and was powered by cranking a handle.

The first difference engine,built from Babbage's design. Wikipedia

The American Arithmometer Company was established in St. Louis, Missouri in 1886 to produce and sell an adding machine that William Seward Burroughs was developing. The inventor received a patent for the first successful adding machine in the US on August 21, 1888. American Arithmometer Company, became Burroughs Corporation and evolved to produce electronic billing machines and mainframes, and eventually merged with Sperry to form Unisys.

An early Burroughs adding machine

Beat author William S. Burroughs was a grandson of William Seward Burroughs. He wrote  a collection of essays called The Adding Machine.

American inventor Herman Hollerith invented the first device that recorded data on a medium, which could then be read by a machine in the late 1880s. He was inspired by conductors using holes punched in different positions on a railway ticket to record traveler details such as gender and approximate age.

Hollerith developed his electromechanical punched card tabulator to assist in summarizing information and, later, accounting. He was issued US patent #395,791 for the 'Art of Applying Statistics' on January 8, 1889. His invention of the punched card tabulating machine marks the beginning of the era of semiautomatic data processing systems

Hollerith built machines under contract for the Census Office, which used them for the 1890 census. Clerks used keypunches to punch holes in the cards entering age, state of residence, gender, and other information from the returns.

Replica of an early:Hollerith punched card tabulator and sorting box Photo by Adam Schuster Flickr: Proto IBM

In 1896 Hollerith started his own business when he founded The Tabulating Machine Company. Many major census bureaus around the world leased his equipment and purchased his cards, as did major insurance companies.

Hollerith built machines under contract for the Census Office, which used them for the 1890 census.

In 1948 the Curta calculator, a hand-cranked, barrel-shaped calculator small enough to fit in the pocket and capable of basic calculations was introduced.

The mathematics master of Harrow predicted to the Mathematical Association in a speech on April 9, 1953 that by 2003, schoolchildren would be working out sums on calculating machines and there would be no multiplication tables. He said: "Each maths room will have its calculating machine, and the child on duty for the day will do any calculating needed."

The ANITA Mark VII and ANITA Mark VIII calculators were launched simultaneously in late 1961 as the world's first all-electronic desktop calculators.

Photo of Anita Mk VIII calculator by MaltaGC at English Wikipedia

The first portable calculator placed on sale by Texas Instruments in 1971 weighed only two and a half pounds and cost a mere $150.

The first slimline digital pocket calculator was the Sinclair Executive, which was launched in 1972. It cost about three times the average weekly wage but set the standard.

The HP-35, Hewlett-Packard's first pocket calculator, was introduced on February 1, 1972. It was the world's first scientific pocket calculator, featuring trigonometric and exponential functions.

An HP-35 pocket calculator. By Seth Morabito 

Source The Independent 3/11/07

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