Adding MachinesStylus-Operated Adding Machines
In 1642, while he was still a teenager, the Frenchman Blaise Pascal invented one of the first machines that could add automatically. Numbers were entered by rotating wheels with a pointed rod or stylus. Carrying took place through the fall of a weight. Some fifty copies of Pascal’s machine were made in his lifetime, mainly for the cabinets of curiosity of well-to-do nobles. In the eighteenth century, similar machines were made, such as one build by Jean Lepine, clockmaker and mechanician to French King Louis XV. In Lepine’s elegant brass machine, carrying took place through the flex of a spring, not the fall of a weight.
In the second half of the 19th century, a variety of much humbler stylus-operated adding machines were patented in the United States. At least three of them went on the market. Two, based on inventions of John Groesbeck and of A. M. Stephenson, had modest sales. The third, invented by journalist Charles H. Webb and sold as the Webb adder, was a sufficient commercial success to boast distinct models, patented in 1868 and 1889.
A.M. Stephenson described a small adding machine with several dials, but only sold one that handled two digits. In the 1840s the Frenchman Didier Roth had designed an improved stylus-operated adding machine that was small and light weight, but had several dials. Roth did not sell his machines successfully, but in the early 20th century such instruments became quite common. One of the first to sell widely in the U.S. was the Calcumeter, patented by James J. Walsh of New Jersey in 1901. Similar instruments, made from metal or later plastic, would sell into the 1970s.
Other small adding machines had parallel rods or chains that moved either crosswise or from top to bottom. Some of these looked quite a bit like contemporary adders, although they had a mechanical carry.
"Adding Machines - Stylus-Operated Adding Machines" showing 1 items.
- This small metal instrument has nine columns of chains. The two rightmost are silver-colored, the next three copper-colored, the next three silver-colored, and the leftmost copper-colored. In back of the chains are nine numeral wheels with the digits from 0 to 9 on them. Digits are marked in red and in black on plastic strips to the right and to the left of the chains. A zeroing wheel is on the right side. A movable metal decimal marker is attached to the machine between the chains and the numeral wheels. The metal stand has a rubber covering along the two edges of its base. The black wooden case is covered with leather and lined with fabric-covered paper.
- The machine is marked on a plastic inset in front of the chains: GOLDMAN’S (/) ARITHSTYLE (/) TRADE-MARK (/) Copyright. 1911. by Arithstyle Company. It is marked on the back: 11790. It is marked on the lid: Arithstyle Company (/) NEW YORK CITY.
- The Arithstyle was the invention of Henry Goldman, who was born in Vienna in 1859, came to the United States in 1881, and published on improved bookkeeping and office machines. By 1898, he had invented his own adding machine, dubbed the arithmachine, which he manufactured in Chicago. In 1905, Goldman left the Unted States for Berlin, where he arranged to have his adding machine manufactured as the Contostyle. The Arithstyle was a similar machine, manufactured in New York on Goldman's design. Goldman died in New York in 1912.
- For instructions, see 1983.0170.02.
- P.A. Kidwell, "'Yours for Improvement' - The Adding Machines of Chicago, 1884-1930," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 23 #1, 2001, pp. 3-21.
- "Henry Goldman," Buero-Industrie, 1914, #13.
- Currently not on view
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- Arithstyle Company
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- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center