Feature object for British Science Week

The Adding Machine

Adding Machine
  • Was invented by Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, physicist and philosopher.
  • He invented and built the first adding machine in 1642 at the age of 18.
  • The adding machine was originally designed to aid in performing complex tax calculations. (He got bored doing it himself).
  • The adding machine is also known as, you guessed it, a calculator.
  • The adding machine was designed by Pascal to be about the size of a shoe box. The idea behind was so that bit could be easily transported from point to point.
  • Operation: The first model was built with eight cogs; these cogs were used to operate the adding machine. The cogs are better known as drums, each drum would have two rows of numbers, one black row and one red row. The first drum was used to add in the value for the dernier, the drum had ten spokes to change the value. The second drum in from the left had twelve spokes to represent sols. The first drum on the right had twelve spokes while the other five going in from the right all had ten spokes. Anybody nowadays is still able to operate the Pascal machine but, only the first six cogs on the right. For somebody to use the adding machine for calculations, they keep rotating the first drum in from the right until they have achieved their first number. After this, the person then rotates the drums again with the next number. Once both numbers have been put in the other drums have rotated accordingly to give a resultant value. Doing subtraction was achieved in much the same way. Instead of rotating the black rows, the individual would have to rotate the red rows of numbers, therefore still giving a resultant value.
  • Many historians regard the 1642 calculator as the world’s first true calculator. Before this only some automatons were able to carry out calculations, this was only addition that most could do quickly in their heads anyway.[1][2]
  • Pascal’s device was considered unique in the fact that it did not work mechanically, all the operator needed to do, was turn a few drums.
  • The adding machine that we have here in the museum is an Odhner type pinwheel calculator.
  • Made in Sweden 1935-1945 (the model here), this was the most successful of its time since it could do all four of the basic types of mathematical calculations; addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Many other designs were based off this one.
  • This particular type was designed in 1874 by Willgodt T. Odhner in St Petersburg, Russia.
  • In 1917 however, the Russian Revolution came under way, causing production of Odhner calculators to be moved to Sweden.
  • Operation for model No 22 is very similar to other adding machines. The first number needs to be set on the drums on the right, then the crank handle is rotated a number of times corresponding with how much the number is either multiplied or divided by (addition and subtraction as well).
  • Operation of this one is still rather complex though, many turns have to be accumulated and the cranking handle also needs to be operated quite a high number of times when the calculation is rather complex.[3][4][5]

[1] https://www.educalc.net/196488.page

[2] http://www.macs.hw.ac.uk/~greg/calculators/pascal/About_Pascaline.htm

[3] http://www.vintagecalculators.com/html/guy_s_calculating_machines.html

[4] http://www.vintagecalculators.com/html/odhner.html

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bz8_tNDUDog

Researched by James Dixon, Museum Volunteer.

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