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

At the beginning of the 20 century, inventors put computing devices on everything from scales to cheese cutters.
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Topic: Legal
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1 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent number: 465,255
Filed: Nov. 11, 1890
Issued: Dec 15, 1891
Inventor: Dorr E. Felt
In 1891, Dorr Felt invented a device designed to improve upon the existing "recording machines which compute." Felt described the improvements in his device as follows:
"The leading object of my invention is to provide an improved recording-machine which will record the answer or result indicated by the numeral-wheels by pressing a knob instead of striking the amount of the answer on the keys."
Image taken from U.S. Patent 465,255 - Digitized by Google
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2 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent number: 465,255
Filed: Nov. 11, 1890
Issued: Dec 15, 1891
Inventor: Dorr E. Felt
Along with using a pressing motion to record the machine calculations instead of a striking motion, Felt believed his invention provided other improvements, such as a better method of returning the numeral-wheels to zero, automatically recording any zeros to the right of the number being recorded, requiring less force to depress the device's keys, and improved calculation.
Image taken from U.S. Patent 465,255 - Digitized by Google
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3 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent number: 487,824
Filed: Feb. 15, 1892
Issued: Dec. 13, 1892
Inventor: J. W. Culmer
Assignee: The Computing Scale Company
In 1892, J.W. Culmer filed a patent for a device he called a "Computing Scale-Poise"
The patent describes the devices as follows:
"My said invention comprises a sliding device which contains in itself the computing mechanism, the operation of which is effected by the sliding of such device upon the scalebeam of a weighing-scale or the movement of such device in its adaptation for computing the value of articles otherwise measured."
Image taken from U.S. Patent 487,824 - Digitized by Google
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4 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
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
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5 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
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
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6 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
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
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7 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent Number: 641,517
Filed: Sep. 23, 1899
Issued: Jan. 16, 1900
Inventor: Charles E. Keel
Image taken from U.S. Patent 641,517 - Digitized by Google
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8 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent Number: 659,727
Filed: Oct. 5, 1899
Issued: Oct. 16, 1900
Inventor: Chester W. Brown
Long before the days of digital cameras, photographers used metal or glass plates to capture images. To help these early photographers, Chester Brown invented a device that could be "carried in the pocket or otherwise for determining the length of time for exposing photographic plates according to the rules of photography applicable to varying conditions…"
Image taken from U.S. Patent 659,727 - Digitized by Google
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9 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent Number: 659,727
Filed: Oct. 5, 1899
Issued: Oct. 16, 1900
Inventor: Chester W. Brown
In his patent, Brown described his invention as follows:
"This calculator consists of three circular disks 1 2 3, made of any suitable material, each being of different size from the other and mounted one upon the other, the smallest one being in front. These disks are secured together by a central rivet 4, which serves as a common pivot around which each disk can revolve. The exposed edges of these disks are each provided with a circumferential space having radial graduations 5 5-1 5-2, those on each disk containing figures and letters different from those on either of the others, and by rotating the disks different combinations are obtained to produce the calculations desired."
Image taken from U.S. Patent 659,727 - Digitized by Google
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10 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent Number 665,118
Filed: May 25, 1900
Issued: Jan. 1, 1901
Inventor: Lars M. Landing
In 1901, Lars Landing received a patent for a device designed to help individuals quickly calculate the interest on a loan, he described the invention as follows:
"My invention relates to machines for computing interest and time, and has for its object to provide a machine of this class which will enable an operator to readily figure the interest on various principals at various rates and for various times and which will also en able the operator to readily ascertain the time (number of days) between two given dates."
Image taken from U.S. Patent 665,118 - Digitized by Google
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11 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent Number 665,118
Filed: May 25, 1900
Issued: Jan. 1, 1901
Inventor: Lars M. Landing
Image taken from U.S. Patent 665,118 - Digitized by Google
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12 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent Number 689,581
Filed: Jun. 16, 1901
Issued: Dec. 24, 1901
Inventor: William M. Evans
Assignees: A. II. Bergman, Fred M. Taylor, Carroll C. Smead
In 1901, William Evans filed a patent for a device designed to accurately cut portions of cheese.
The object of my invention is to provide a computing cheese-cutting apparatus of sim-^ pie, durable, and inexpensive construction by^ which cheeses of any ordinary size or weight maybe quickly and easily cutinto portions of predetermined values without waste and with a maximum of accuracy."
Image taken from U.S. Patent 689,581 - Digitized by Google
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13 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent Number 689,581
Filed: Jun. 16, 1901
Issued: Dec. 24, 1901
Inventor: William M. Evans
Assignees: A. II. Bergman, Fred M. Taylor, Carroll C. Smead
In the patent, Evans described how someone would use the device:
"Then assuming that it is desired to cut from the cheese a piece of the value of twenty cents, the operator moves the rotary platform to a position where the cut previously made in the cheese will be directly in vertical alignment with the point upon the scale indicated by the numeral "20." Then the crank 27 is operated to firmly secure the platform in position. Then the knife is moved downwardly to a horizontal position, and a section is cut from the cheese, which section will be of the approximate value of twenty cents."
I don't think $0.20 will buy you much cheese today.
Image taken from U.S. Patent 689,581 - Digitized by Google
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14 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent Number: 846,012
Filed: Jun. 23, 1906
Issued: Mar 5, 1907
Inventor: Zardia Crain
Assignees: Daniel Bower and A.J. Woodard
Even a century ago, enterprising individuals and companies were creating accessories to go with those new fangled computing devices and adding machines. Zardia Crain's book holder for adding machines was just such an invention.
Image taken from U.S. Patent 846,012 - Digitized by Google
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15 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent Number: 846,012
Filed: Jun. 23, 1906
Issued: Mar 5, 1907
Inventor: Zardia Crain
Assignees: Daniel Bower and A.J. Woodard
In his patent applications, Crain descried his invention as follows:
"The invention has for an object to provide book-holding carriage mounted for travel in both vertical and horizontal planes relative to the computing-machine to which it is attached, together with means for automatically controlling the movement of said carriage in the operation of the computing-machine. Another object of the invention is to provide an improved construction and arrangement of book-holder provided with platens adapted to be inserted beneath the leaves of the book for retaining the book in proper position within the carriage."
Image taken from U.S. Patent 846,012 - Digitized by Google
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16 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent Number 911,750
Filed: Aug. 4, 1908
Issued: Feb. 9, 1909
Inventor: Edward Nicholas
In 1901, Edward Nicholas received a patent for a device that offered improvements to time printing machines. In his patent, he described the invention as follows:
"More specifically the invention consists of a delivery tube or shell having a stationary pivotal gate and an adjustable gate adapted to be normally held by springs at different locations within the tube or shell accordingly as it might be desired to dispense different quantities of commodities and at the same time indicate the amount of the commodity thus weighed at different prices per pound."
Image taken from U.S. Patent 911,750 - Digitized by Google
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17 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent Number 911,750
Filed: Aug. 4, 1908
Issued: Feb. 9, 1909
Inventor: Edward Nicholas
This drawing shows the measuring portion of Nicholas' invention.
Image taken from U.S. Patent 911,750 - Digitized by Google
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18 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
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
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19 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
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
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20 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
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
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21 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent Number 1,008,763
Filed: Sep. 8, 1903
Issued: Nov. 14, 1911
Inventor: John C. Wilson
Wilson designed his invention with a specific business in mind--the telephone company. He believe his devices could be "adapted for use in connection with telephone toll lines switchboards to record the exact time when a toll line conversation begins and when it ends and at the same time to automatically compute or calculate and record the exact elapsed or intervening time, or to indicate that the elapsed or intervening time has not exceeded a certain fixed or predetermined period or time limit."
Image taken from U.S. Patent 1,008,763 - Digitized by Google
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22 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent Number: 1,069,384
Filed: Jun. 18, 1909
Issued: Aug. 5, 1913
Inventor: James W. Bryce
In 1913, James Bryce received a patent for an "elapsed-time recorder," which hed described as providing "new and improved means for calculating and recording elapsed time."
Image taken from U.S. Patent 1,069,384 - Digitized by Google
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23 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
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
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24 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
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
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25 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
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
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26 of 26 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet
U.S. Patent Number 1,185,520
Filed: Apr. 8, 1902
Issued: May 30, 1916
Inventor: Holmes Marshall
Assignees: John T. Underwood
Marshall sought to improve upon existing typewriters, even those with an attached "tabulating device." His machine combined a traveling typewriter and a computing device.
Image taken from U.S. Patent 1,185,520 - Digitized by Google

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