Origins of ordinary things: Calculators

As you get promoted to higher levels of education, mathematical topics become more and more complex. Your fingers, toes, sticks and other methods stop being enough. At this point, you start making use of a calculator.

This transition exists thanks to Blaise Pascal, a French inventor who came up with the idea of a mechanical calculator in 1642. Pascal created the idea in order to help make his father’s work easier. His father was a tax adjuster. This is according to the article “Who invented the first calculator?” by Reference, an online knowledge dissemination platform.

Before Pascal’s mechanical calculator, there was the abacus.According to Meta-calculator, an online knowledge resource, the abacus was invented more than two thousand years ago. It was first used by the Chinese, Greeks and Romans. The abacus involves the use of rods and beads to represent various groups of numbers. It is especially revolutionary because to this day, this tool is used to teach algebra to young children. 

Apart from the abacus, ancient methods for solving algebraic equations include the use a slide rule and logarithm. This is according to the article “Chronology of calculator developments” by Vintage Calculator, an online source of information on calculators.

Pascal’s mechanical calculator did not sell. It is said to have had many shortcomings and could not perform many functions. A later development by another inventor Gottfried Leibniz in 1673 also proved erratic, says Vintage Calculator.

In 1853, Per Georg Scheutz, a Swedish lawyer and inventor designed the first printing calculator. According to Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, the printing calculator was the same size as a piano.

Up to this point, the calculators created were limited in the functions that they could perform. It was in 1893 that the “millionaire calculator” was introduced. It allowed for multiple figures to be calculated. That is why it was the first commercially successful direct multiplying calculator.

According to the article “The Millionaire” by The Hellenic Archives of Science Instruments, the millionaire calculator was invented by Otto Steiger, a Swiss Engineer. It had the approximate size of a briefcase.

Although different researchers have made varying submissions about the year when handheld calculators came into place, it is generally agreed that it was in the 1960s. At this point, the calculators were expensive.

In 1972, according to Meta-calculator, massive production of calculators started and their prices reduced significantly, increasing their demand.

A calculator is one of the most expensive scholastic items. However, it is of great value to students as they learn complex mathematical problems.

Of course, with the advancement of technology, there are computerized methods of obtaining answers to mathematical problems. With time, and with the introduction of technology-based education methods, calculators will start to become one of the great inventions of the past.