Mechanical Calculator - The 19th Century - Automatic Mechanical Calculators

Automatic Mechanical Calculators

  • In 1822, Charles Babbage presented a small cogwheel assembly that demonstrated the operation of his difference engine, a mechanical calculator which would be capable of holding and manipulating seven numbers of 31 decimal digits each. It was the first time that a calculating machine could work automatically using as input results from its previous operations. It was the first calculating machine to use a printer. The development of this machine, later called "Difference Engine No. 1," stopped around 1834.
  • In 1834, Babbage started to design his analytical engine, which will become the undisputed ancestor of the modern mainframe computer with two separate input streams for data and program (a primitive Harvard architecture), printers for outputting results (three different kind), processing unit (mill), memory (store) and the first ever set of programming instructions. In the proposal that Howard Aiken gave IBM in 1937 while requesting funding for the Harvard Mark I which became IBM's entry machine in the computer industry, we can read: "Few calculating machines have been designed strictly for application to scientific investigations, the notable exceptions being those of Charles Babbage and others who followed him. In 1812 Babbage conceived the idea of a calculating machine of a higher type than those previously constructed to be used for calculating and printing tables of mathematical functions. ....After abandoning the difference engine, Babbage devoted his energy to the design and construction of an analytical engine of far higher powers than the difference engine..."
  • In 1847, Babbage began work on an improved difference engine design—his "Difference Engine No. 2." None of these designs were completely built by Babbage. In 1991 the London Science Museum followed Babbage's plans to build a working Difference Engine No. 2 using the technology and materials available in the 19th century.
  • In 1855, Per Georg Scheutz completed a working difference engine based on Babbage's design. The machine was the size of a piano, and was demonstrated at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1855. It was used to create tables of logarithms.
  • In 1875, Martin Wiberg re-designed the Babbage/Scheutz difference engine and built a version that was the size of a sewing machine.

Read more about this topic:  Mechanical Calculator, The 19th Century

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