Overview One of
the earliest and most important skills that humans developed was counting.
As quantities increase and the need to compare and interpret these
quantities also increases, a strictly mental (abstract) mathematical model
is no longer useful. Calculating devices offer a physical representation
of quantities, helping users visualize and record their calculations. The
history of calculating devices is a long one with many important stages of
development. Today, antiquated calculating devices are popular with
History of Calculating
Devices >From counting on your fingers and toes, to the use of
enormous mechanical computers, there is a wide variety of calculating
devices. Even with the advent of powerful electronic calculators, some
calculating devices, such as the slide rule and the abacus, are still used
today. For a brief description of the most common mechanical calculating
devices, read the three-part series entitled “A
Brief History of Mechanical Calculators” by James Redin. Early
numerical tools are just one part of an article about the development of
computers found on this
Web page. Here, you can read about a wide variety of calculating
devices ranging from notched stones to slide rules.
Device Designs What are some of the different designs of calculating
devices, and who invented them? What are the major classifications of
calculating tools, and what did they look like? Answers to these
questions, and others, can be found at www.webcom.com/calc/main.html.
the best-known and oldest calculating device is the abacus. In the
1940’s, the abacus was pitted against one of the most advanced electric
calculators of the day in a test of speed. The abacus won! Follow this
link to read more about this interesting event. For a simulation
of how a real abacus works click on this
link or this link.
Collecting Calculating Devices Whether you are a serious collector of
antique calculating devices, or you just want to find more details about
them, online collector’s Web sites are a great resource. Visit any of
the following Web pages for detailed information about calculating
devices, their prices, availability, and history.
Early mechanical computers were the most complex non-electronic
calculation devices ever built. Considered by some to be an important
ancestor of modern computers, the Analytical Engine--conceptualized and
partially built by Charles Babbage--was a steam-powered, gear-driven
computing machine. Read all about it at www.fourmilab.ch/babbage/.
The history of mechanical computers is the topic discussed on this
Web page and a detailed timeline of mechanical computers history can be found at this Web page. A general history of computers, including both
electronic and mechanical ones, can be found at http://www.wikipedia.com/wiki/History_of_computing.