Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Mechanical Calculator 2015

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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 when 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 run.

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..."

MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 08 2015

Electro-mecanical calculator http://hackaday.com...-mechanical-relays/
[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>
bs0u0155, Mar 08 2015

       //1990s in Wales //   

       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.
8th of 7, Mar 08 2015

       I like this idea. I'm going to suggest a variant.
doctorremulac3, Mar 09 2015

       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.   

       No Printer.
popbottle, Mar 09 2015

       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. [+]
Voice, Mar 10 2015


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