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History of Mechanical Computing Machinery

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129345D
Original Publication Date: 1980-Jul-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-05
Document File: 14 page(s) / 45K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

GEORGE C. CHASE: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

I expect the caption of this picture, ";A Chinaman Started It,"; to start an argument. One may say the Babylonians started it. Another may say the abacus drifted to China from India. But I like the picture, which I clipped from an old-time Sundstrand advertising leaflet, because it was a Chinaman who started it with me. This picture clearly shows the two-bead section known as ";Heaven"; and the five-bead section known as ";Earth."; The Japanese abacus has but one bead in each order of ";Heaven.";

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1980 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

History of Mechanical Computing Machinery

GEORGE C. CHASE

1 "A Chinaman Started It"

I expect the caption of this picture, "A Chinaman Started It," to start an argument. One may say the Babylonians started it. Another may say the abacus drifted to China from India. But I like the picture, which I clipped from an old-time Sundstrand advertising leaflet, because it was a Chinaman who started it with me. This picture clearly shows the two-bead section known as "Heaven" and the five-bead section known as "Earth." The Japanese abacus has but one bead in each order of "Heaven."

2 Chinese Laundry

The abacus was the first computing device I ever saw. As a lad in the Gay Nineties when men's daily attire was a shirt with a stiffly starched bosom and an equally stiff detachable collar, one of my weekly chores was to fetch my father's laundry from the Chinaman. What he could do with his abacus amazed me. He tried to show me how it was done, but could not explain it in any terms of arithmetic I could understand. He knew nothing of the arithmetic I had learned in school, and could not do with pencil and paper the examples he could solve on his abacus skillfully and accurately. Later, I learned he had been taught in China to operate the abacus as his forefathers had been taught, before Hindu-Arabic numeration was known.

3 Pascal and His Machine

The first known numeral wheel register was made by Blaise Pascal of Paris, in about 1642. Pascal's father was a superintendent of taxes; and the boy was inspired to build a machine that would be helpful to his father in his figure work. By the age of 19, Pascal had experimented with several models. Of the seven that have been preserved, none give dependable results because of deficient mechanical construction. [Since Chase produced this survey, information has come to light concerning an earlier digital calculator than Pascal's. Designed by Wilhelm Schickard, it was intended for use in the laborious calculations then being performed by the astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). The single prototype was destroyed in a fire, and Schickard never undertook to build another. With respect to Chase's sentence about "dependable results" and "deficient mechanical construction," it may be doubted that Chase's judgment was based on the same firsthand experience with the Pascal calculators that he had with the others described later in the article. Pascal's machine it may be added, used complement arithmetic for subtraction. In fact, the two distinctive features of the Pascal machine were a mechanical means to effect a carry and the use of complement arithmetic to perform subtraction without having to reverse the operation of the machine.]

4 Leibniz and His Machine

IEEE Computer Society, Jul 01, 1980 Page 1 IEEE Annals of the History of Computing...