Mechanical Calculators

Dated: November 20 2014

Views: 1528

All these moving parts, just to do math. 

In this series of pictures he calls simply Low Tech, photographer Kevin Twomey reveals the complicated guts of mechanical calculators, the gear-and-rod predecessors the electronic calculator. Often the size of typewriters, mechanical calculators cost a small fortune in their day and were not mass-produced machines but almost artistic creations. 
The machines come from the collection of Mark Glusker, a mechanical engineer for Novartis who has assembled about 100 mechanical calculators built between 1961 and 1971—when the electronic calculator had come of age and manufacturers quit making the obsolete mechanical versions. What was true for computers in general was true for mechanical calculators—no matter how cleverly their makers arranged the gears, motors, springs, and rods, machines that relied upon such analog parts to compute could not hope to keep up with the rapid acceleration of the electronic age. 
Today pocket calculators are disappearing, replaced by an app on your phone with so much more power than these metal hulks could have ever dreamed of. Let's be honest, though. Your iPhone never looked this good. 
Kevin Twomey

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