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: 487,824
    Filed: Feb. 15, 1892
    Issued: Dec. 13, 1892
    Inventor: J. W. Culmer
    Assignee: The Computing Scale Company

    In the patent, Culmer described how someone would use the device:

    "In using the computing-poise with the weighing-scale the operator sets the poise at zero on the beam and the decimal-disks each show "0" at the face-opening. The pointer, if then set at 10 on the price-arc, will thereby move the cam 18, and thereby carry down the disk 8,theyoke-frame, and its connected roll 12 nearer to the center of the disk 7, and assuming the pound-divisions to be two inches apart, or any other fixed distance, the disk 7 and the decimal-disks 4, 5, and 6 will be moved ten times the distance upon their axis as they would if the pointer were placed at "1" on the price-arc and the roll 12 at the periphery of the disk 7."

    Image taken from U.S. Patent 487,824 - Digitized by Google
  • U.S. Patent Number: 580,862
    Filed: Jan 26, 1897
    Issued: 1897
    Inventor: Otto Heckel

    In 1897, Otto Heckel was issued a patent for a machine in which a "roll of wire-cloth or screening or other material may be placed, and by unwinding the same from this device it measures the length desired and calculates the number of square feet and gives the amount it will cost."

    Image taken from U.S. Patent 580,862 - Digitized by Google
  • U.S. Patent Number: 641,517
    Filed: Sep. 23, 1899
    Issued: Jan. 16, 1900
    Inventor: Charles E. Keel

    Looking for a ways to quickly and accurately calculate taxes, Charles Keel described his invention as follows:

    "The invention consists in a manually-operated machine consisting of a pair of main rotating disks, one of which contains numbers representing valuations or base-figures and the other of which contains numbers representing results or amounts of taxes or percentage, a pair of rotating numbered disks to show the higher denominations or order of figures in connection with those on the main disks, intermediate gearing whereby the disks are caused to rotate in the proper ratios of speed to effect the desired results, and a frame whereby the several parts are supported."

    Image taken from U.S. Patent 641,517 - 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.