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Mechanical calculators were in use well into the 1970s (or
1990s in Wales). They reached their pinnacle of refinement
in the Curta calculator - a little mechanical pepperpot which
would crank out the answers as you cranked its handle. If
you have never seen a Curta, _don't_ Google it, because
you see it you will want one, and they are expensive.
Howevertheless, even the Curta had a limited range of
mathematical operations, because only so many gears, cams,
pinions and pillets could be packed into a handy size.
Ultimately, electronic calculators took over from mechanical
ones, because electronic miniaturisation gave them ever
more capabilities and made them ever cheaper.
Well, according to my (mechanical) watch, it is now well into
the 21st century. Electronics have progressed a lot, but
mechanical engineering has advanced also. In particular, we
now have the technology to produce the most minuscule
mechanical components by techniques such as
photolithography. It is perfectly possible, for instance, to
make gear trains on a micron scale, assembled and ready to
It should, therefore, be possible to resume the development
of the mechanical calculator. A device with a few hundred
moving parts would be capable of some fairly complex
calculations. If the same modular approach to design were
employed in mechanical calculators as in electronic chips, it
should even be possible to make devices with many thousands
of intermeshing gears.
The time has come, therefore, to produce the world's first
mechanical scientific calculator, capable of full trignometric,
statistical and other functions.
Naturally, the human interfaces would be similar to those on
the older generation of mechanical calculators - sliders or
punch-buttons for input, and elegantly engraved brass or
ivory wheels for the output. "Pi to the power of root 10?
Sure, let me just crank that one out here..."
[bs0u0155, Mar 08 2015]
||Considering that I grew up well after digital watches
became widespread, and that I'm wearing a mechanical
watch, I think there's a market. I've been amazed at the full
computers built without semiconductors, here's a nifty semi
conductor free calculator. <link>
||They are in fact still in widespread use there, as they are durable but
not exactly portable, typically taking the form of a ring of standing
stones. These are relatively difficult to steal, and are inedible, two
factors which greatly reduce their attractiveness to the natives.
||Simple two-function devices are also employed, consisting of a single
pillar. These allow the intelligentsia to calculate if it's day or night
(stone visible/not visible), and provide a convenient suface against
which to smash their forehead when they wake up in the morning and
realise they're still welsh.
||Their use has not spread to the lower orders as they lack the
comprehension to discriminate between night/day and eyes
open/eyes shut. Indeed, the majority of taffs perceive the world as
nothing more than a series of extremely short, random, solar eclipses,
better understood by humans as "blinking".
||// we now have the technology to produce the most minuscule
mechanical components by techniques such as photolithography. It
is perfectly possible, for instance, to make gear trains on a micron
scale, assembled and ready to run.//
||Not in wales, where the available materials are limited to mud, sheep
excrement, rainwater, and rocks.
||I like this idea. I'm going to suggest a variant.
||A Comptometer Model WM helped Mom put us through grade school. Imagine 40 machines and operators getting out the payroll for a medium sized assembly firm.
||The math was odd. To subtract you added backwards.
||It would cost 400,000 dollars, be the size of a kitchen table,
use at least two amps of power when calculating, and work
slower than a slide rule. [+]