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Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum, Paderborn, Germany

These Are Some of The Most Beautiful Calculators Humans Have Ever Made

11 DEC 2014

In today’s world, calculators are pretty boring. They’re black, battery-powered and, if you’re lucky, can chart a graph for you. 

But before mid-20th century, calculators were so much more - starting with the invention of the abacus around 2000 BC, humanity has come up with a range of ingenious and fascinating machines to help us calculate over the centuries.


Sure, we now have the ability to store formulae and do algebra all with the one sleek machine, but have we lost some of the wonder of mathematics along the way?

Luckily, Vincze Miklós over at io9 has put together a breathtaking and fascinating gallery of some of the most beautiful and odd calculators that humanity has ever built. 

From gleaming steam punk-looking brass machines to the Water Integrator that took up an entire room, here are just a few of the strange devices we used to use to calculate throughout history. 

It’s not just an ode to maths, it’s also a beautiful testimony to the inventiveness of humans.

This is Pascaline, or Pascal’s Calculator, and was created by French mathematician Blaise Pascal in 1642. Inspired to create it to help make his father’s job in accounting easier, the invention was primarily intended as an adding machine, but it could also subtract numbers and do some basic division and multiplication.

1280px-Arts et Metiers Pascaline dsc03869David Monniaux/Wikimedia

This beautiful machine (also photographed in the main image above) was built by engineer Johann Helfrich Müller around 1784. The "calculating machine" could perform the four basic arithmetic operations.

Mueller smushHeinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum, Paderborn, Germany

Detail der Rechenmaschine von Johann Helfrich MullerNick Steelworkers/Wikimedia

This is a 2005 replica of Consul, the Educated Monkey, which was originally produced in the 1910s and 1920s. The mechanical multiplier worked by the user pointing Consul’s feet to the two numbers they wanted to multiply, and then he would reveal the answer with his hands. We want one.

consul the educated monkeyMechanical Calculator

The Water Integrator was built by Russian architect Vladimir Lukyanov in 1936 and could solve (partial) differential equations. Incredibly, the water levels in the chambers of the device represented stored numbers, and the rate of flow between these chambers represented the mathematical operations.

1025829186981937806Moscow Polytechnical Museum

Check out Miklós' amazing story over on io9 to see the full gallery.

Source: io9