WHAT do you use when studying mathematics and you need to solve an arithmetic equation? You take help of a calculator that assists you in solving numeric questions within seconds. A calculator has made our lives simple as we use the device at home, at school, and every professional needs it every day.
The calculators that we use today are the advanced versions of a device that, when invented, was in its primitive form and was called the adding machine.
THE abacus wasn’t a machine but a tool used for counting that was invented before 2000BC. Considered the basis on which the modern calculator has taken its shape, an abacus consisted of small ball-shaped beads that slid on sticks and the sticks were attached to a rectangular frame. Many countries in Asia, especially China, still use the abacus.
AS the human understanding and intelligence grew broader, it began to invent advanced mechanical devices for counting. In 1642, during the Renaissance era, Blaise Pascal invented the mechanical calculator which was the first device to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication and division on its own – an advanced version of abacus, but a primitive form of the calculator.
The Leibniz Wheel
GOTTFRIED Leibniz invented the mechanical calculator after nearly four decades of the invention of the mechanical calculator. Although Leibniz’s invention was used for the next three decades, its usage began to decline as inventors began working on the digital calculator during the latter parts of the 1960s.
IT was during the Industrial Revolution that breakthroughs in developing an innovative calculator design came to fore when inventors had mechanical and technical expertise by their side and because the industries of the west were moving towards progress. Although the machines invented before this era did help humans in mathematical computation, it was during the Industrial Revolution that inventors did modify the adding machine’s performance and design.
THE first successful adding machine was the Arithmometer, which was invented in 1820. However, it took the machine another three decades before it could be made available in the market in 1951. It was a modern design and more accurate than the previous adding machines.
THE earlier designs of these adding machines either had a handle to rotate the wheels to do the calculations or had beads as in the case of an abacus.
In 1902, however, the interface of these adding machines had a facelift when push buttons were installed. These push buttons are still used today in calculators. In 1902, these push buttons were considered a big step forward to simplify the working of an adding machine.
THE huge size of these adding machines was a concern for the inventors and the users because it was difficult to carry them. Reducing the size was a challenge for inventors who had to do so without affecting the computation process.
In 1948, people were amazed to see the Curta calculator, designed by an Austrian engineer, Curt Herzstark. The calculator was a cylindrical device having a small lever on top that could perform all four basic mathematical functions and could take square roots. Although the calculator was costlier than other adding machines, the machine’s portability became Curta calculator’s point of differentiation.
THE calculators that we use today are durable with the numbers appearing on a digital screen. Moreover, the calculators help us in computing algebraic, mathematical and statistical problems as all mathematical functions are stored in the calculator’s memory.
Nowadays pocket calculators are used around the world that fit easily in your pockets or bag packs. Moreover, calculators are now also part of our laptops, tablets, cell phones and even digital watches. The next time that you use a calculator, just think about the struggles that inventors faced in creating a device that saves your time and gives you accurate results.