The First Mechanical Calculator
Blaise Pascal, noted mathematician, thinker, and scientist, built the first mechanical adding machine in 1642 based on a design described by Hero of Alexandria (2AD) to add up the distance a carriage travelled. The basic principle of his calculator is still used today in water meters and modern-day odometers. Instead of having a carriage wheel turn the gear, he made each ten-teeth wheel accessible to be turned directly by a person's hand (later inventors added keys and a crank), with the result that when the wheels were turned in the proper sequences, a series of numbers was entered and a cumulative sum was obtained. The gear train supplied a mechanical answer equal to the answer that is obtained by using arithmetic.
This first mechanical calculator, called the Pascaline, had several disadvantages. Although it did offer a substantial improvement over manual calculations, only Pascal himself could repair the device and it cost more than the people it replaced! In addition, the first signs of technophobia emerged with mathematicians fearing the loss of their jobs due to progress.
Computers: From the Past to the Present
Pascaline: The First Mechanical Calculator: Last modified July 30, 2006
©1994-2006 by Michelle A. Hoyle