Computers & Business Machines
Imagine the loss, 100 years from now, if museums hadn't begun preserving the artifacts of the computer age. The last few decades offer proof positive of why museums must collect continuously—to document technological and social transformations already underway.
The museum's collections contain mainframes, minicomputers, microcomputers, and handheld devices. Computers range from the pioneering ENIAC to microcomputers like the Altair and the Apple I. A Cray2 supercomputer is part of the collections, along with one of the towers of IBM's Deep Blue, the computer that defeated reigning champion Garry Kasparov in a chess match in 1997. Computer components and peripherals, games, software, manuals, and other documents are part of the collections. Some of the instruments of business include adding machines, calculators, typewriters, dictating machines, fax machines, cash registers, and photocopiers
- This is the patent model for U.S. patent 350,986, for a cash register. It has a pine box for a base and a wooden case that covers the mechanism and the back part of the box. Four notched metal wheels, mounted vertically, represent tens of dollars, dollars, tens of cents, and cents. Rotating the wheels forward enters digits, which appear in windows to the left of the wheels.
- Moving a knob on the front of the machine raises the case, which is hinged to the box at the back. This reveals the cash register mechanism, including a bell. It also shows the inside of the box, which contains several loose parts. One of these is a broken wooden disc that has a paper disc pasted to it with 26 letters around the edge (not in alphabetical order). The digits from 0 to 9 are listed next to 10 of the letters. This wheel may well not be part of the model. The patent tag with drawing and description is attached to the cash register.
- William C. McGill (1812–1890) was born in Berks County, Pa., and spent his early years at sea. He went to California at the time of the Gold Rush, then to Australia, and then to St. Louis. In 1860, he moved to Cincinnati, and soon was assisting in organizing the first company of military volunteers in that city. After the Civil War, he was a guard at the District of Columbia jail until he resigned in 1882 because of poor health. He reportedly was the first patentee of the bell punch and devoted most of his later years to his inventions.
- W. C. McGill, "Cash Register," U.S. Patent 350,986, October 19, 1886.
- Washington Post, August 23, 1890 (obituary).
- Currently not on view
- date made
- McGill, William C.
- McGill, William C.
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- accession number
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- Data Source
- National Museum of American History