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Pascaline

1642 France


Blaise Pascal


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General


the use of the pascaline, the machine appears here to be much larger than in reality

 


view and detail of pascaline

 

pascaline_drawing
original design of pascaline

 


original pascaline as displayed in the des arts et metiers Museum in Paris - opened

Description


Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) France, develops a mechanism to calculate with 8 figures and carrying of 10's , 100's, and 1000's etc.

The machine is called the 'Pascaline'.

While several models were completed, Pascal's machine  was more likely to be found in the living rooms of their owners as a conversation piece rather than in the office.more on pascaline

Pascal according to his memoirs develops the machine because he had to help his father with his work as tax receiver. The calculations are done with a kind of Abax, using little stones to add and subtract. This is boredom Pascal said and started to make the a machine that later became known as the Pascaline.

The genius of the machine is that Pascal realized how the tens and hundreds could be carried  This had to be solved first if one could work with numbers larger than 10 with the help of a machine.

Pascal used the following principle:

When a gear with ten teeth made one rotation (tens) a second gear shift one tooth until that gear rotated ten times (hundreds) that shifts another gear (thousands) etc. This principle is still used in odometers in cars, pumps of petrol stations, and your electricity meters at home.

A nice simplified animation is found on: http://perso.wanadoo.fr/therese.eveilleau/pages/truc_mat/textes/pascaline.htm#haut

The numbers to be added are set up via some turning discs on the bottom. After crunching a handle the answer appeared in a window. In this way the machine only could add. Subtracting required some adaptations to it so it counted "backwards". Division and multiplication can be done by repeating the adding or subtractions. This is the way most mechanical calculators still work!

The introduction of the Pascaline is no commercial success. Compared with the cost of labor the Pascaline is too expensive. Apart from that there is a pressure on the employers by the white collar workers to dump the machine afraid as they are to loose their jobs.

There were 50 Pascalines built. And some are on display in the Conservatoir des arts et métiers, 292 Rue Saint Martin, at Paris, and the Science Museum at London.
museum to visitmuseums to visit

Blaise Pascal is in his time a wonder child on mathematics and it implementations. His invention of the counting machine grew out of necessity but also opened the way for more complicated counting machines by later generations of inventors.

Chronology

 

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Go Back Last Updated on 2013-03-14 For suggestions please mail the editors 

Footnotes & References

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