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.
- Balancing credits and debits in a checkbook has long challenged many consumers. In 1972, late in the age of mechanical aids to computation, the Diamond Check Division of Diamond International Corporation introduced this small adding machine that fit in a checkbook.
- The stylus-operated tan plastic non-printing adding machine has six orange plastic wheels and an orange plastic stylus. A long slot across the top of the instrument fits into a checkbook. Each wheel has ten indentations on each side. The frame has openings around each wheel on both sides. These are numbered from 0 to 9. Deposits are entered by rotating wheels on the front of the instrument, and debits are entered by rotating wheels on the back. A blue paper envelope gives instructions.
- The machine is marked on the front: THE CHECKBOOK BALANCER (/) DEPOSIT TURN DIALS (/) CLOCKWISE. It is marked on the back: THE CHECKBOOK BALANCER (/) DEDUCT TURN DIALS (/) CLOCKWISE. It is also marked there: PAT. PEND. (/) DIAMOND INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, and: U.S.A. It is marked on the paper case that holds the instrument: Diamond International Corporation, P.O. Bin 28, Arroyo Annex, Pasadena, California 91109.
- Newspaper accounts indicate that this product was aimed particularly at women, as they were primarily responsible for balancing checkbooks. Devices were marketed to banks, who in turn sold them to customers for $3.00 or less. By April 1973 some 500,000 of the machines reportedly had sold. They would soon be replaced by inexpensive electronic calculators.
- Alexander Auerbach, "Pocketbook Computer May Aid System of Checks and Balances," Los Angeles Times, February 11, 1972, p. F12.
- Display Advertisement, The Washington Post, June 6, 1972, p. A4.
- Display Advertisement, Los Angeles Times, April 24, 1973, p. G6.
- Currently not on view
- date made
- ca 1972
- Diamond International Corporation
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center