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.

TOPICS: Patents

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  • U.S. Patent Number: 1,069,384
    Filed: Jun. 18, 1909
    Issued: Aug. 5, 1913
    Inventor: James W. Bryce

    Bryce's invention consisted of both the mechanisms for measuring time and printing a record of elapsed time, but also "cards" on which the record could be printed

    Image taken from U.S. Patent 1,069,384 - Digitized by Google
  • U.S. Patent Number 1,149,516
    Filed: Mar. 13, 1914
    Issued: Aug. 1915
    Inventor: Herbert. S. Hirshberg

    In 1915, Herbert Hirshberg received a patent for a device designed to make life easier for busy librarians everywhere. In his patent application, he described the invention as follows:

    "More particularly, the idea resides in so presenting a continuous alignment bent or curved arrangement of selected dates from the yearly calendar, with reference to a fixed scale of numerals, that a series of accumulated fines in daily progression may be automatically tabulated."

    Image taken from U.S. Patent 1,149,516 - Digitized by Google
  • U.S. Patent Number 1,185,520
    Filed: Apr. 8, 1902
    Issued: May 30, 1916
    Inventor: Holmes Marshall
    Assignees: John T. Underwood

    In 1916, inventor Holmes Marshall received a patent for a machine designed to be both a typewriter and calculator. In his patent, he described the invention as follows:

    "The object of this invention is to provide a combined typewriting and computing machine in a form which shall require very little and very simple connecting mechanism in addition to usual typewriting and computing mechanism. More specifically, the object is to provide intermediate mechanism between a computing machine and a book typewriter, wherein the type-writer proper travels both across the page and down it."

    Image taken from U.S. Patent 1,185,520 - 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?"
  • 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?
  • The Automaton

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