Wild computing devices from the late 1800s and early 1900s

Wild computing devices from the late 1800s and early 1900s

Summary: At the beginning of the 20 century, inventors put computing devices on everything from scales to cheese cutters.

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TOPICS: Patents
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  • U.S. Patent Number: 939,479
    Filed: Apr. 10, 1907
    Issued: Nov. 9, 1909
    Inventor: John M. Daly

    In his 1909 patent, John Daly describes a computing device designed for a very specific purpose--"for equating train tonnage or for measuring the resistance of railway trains."

    Image taken from U.S. Patent 939,479 - Digitized by Google
  • U.S. Patent Number: 939,479
    Filed: Apr. 10, 1907
    Issued: Nov. 9, 1909
    Inventor: John M. Daly

    How would you use Daly's device? In the patent he describes the operation as follows:

    "Now, upon making up a freight train in which this device may be used, the number, of the engine is first ascertained and its corresponding scale ring over that particular road is placed in position., Then for each car 'to' be transported, its gross weight is learned and the propelling, pin is placed in the hole 11 opposite a number designating 102 an amount equal to the gross weight of the .car. The pin and disk are turned clockwise until the propelling pin strikes against .the fixed stop 7 and the number of gross tons that car represents on that road will be registered upon the registering wheels. A car at a time may be added and the same process employed so long as: neither the limit in the number of cars has been reached, nor the sum upon the registering mechanism exceeds U 5 the tonnage rate of the engine."

    Image taken from U.S. Patent 939,479 - Digitized by Google
  • U.S. Patent Number 1,008,763
    Filed: Sep. 8, 1903
    Issued: Nov. 14, 1911
    Inventor: John C. Wilson

    In 1911, John Wilson received a patent for a device the offer improvements to time printing machines. In his patent, he described the invention as follows:

    "The apparatus consists of a novel arrangement of parts and connecting and cooperating devices to enable such machines to not only print or record the actual times of day 15 and the date when the machine is operated, but also to automatically compute or calculate and record or indicate the exact amount or value of the time which may elapse or intervene between two or more successive 20 imprintings to the exact second if need be…"

    Image taken from U.S. Patent 1,008,763 - Digitized by Google

Topic: Patents

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  • RE: Wild computing devices from the late 1800s and early 1900s

    Interesting - although most of them seem to be calculators of some sort, and most them appear to only really do a specific task (such as unit conversion).

    There was something called an "analytical engine" which was actually shown to be Turing complete, although it was never actually constructed.

    It never gained the funding and political support it needed, and would eventually become obsolete with the invention of computers based on electricity.

    Still, there are some novels written on the idea of "what if this had actually be completed, and we had computing before electricity?"
    CobraA1
  • RE: Wild computing devices from the late 1800s and early 1900s

    the train tonnage/resistence calculator would have been handy a few months ago.
    A local AC train carrying stone/cement was overloaded and causes a major brush fire in 3 towns.

    I wonder if Wilson's time stamp is y2k approved and if it stamps past 2012?
    sagetumbleweed@...
  • The Automaton

    Was a chess playing 'robot'.
    It was actually a hoax and housed a chess master (Pilsbury?).
    Nifty mechanics tho.
    sagetumbleweed@...