Math in Computing

Mechanical and Electronic Calculating Devices

What were some of the first motor-driven calculating devices?

Many historians believe that the first motor-driven calculating machine was the Autarigh, a device designed by Czechoslovakian inventor Alexander Rechnitzer (1879–1922) in 1902. The next step occurred in 1907, when Samuel Jacob Herzstark (1867–1937) produced a motor-driven version of his Thomas-based calculators in Vienna. In 1920 a prolific Spanish inventor named Leonardo Torres Quevedo (1852–1936) presented an electromechanical machine wired to a typewriter at the Paris Calculating Machine Exhibition. His invention performed addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and then used typewriters as input/output devices. Interestingly enough, even though the machine made a hit at the exhibition, it was never produced commercially.

More and more such calculating devices with electric motors were invented. By the 1940s, the electric-motor-driven mechanical calculator had become a common desktop tool in business, science, and engineering.


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