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The Pre Industrial Era

1886-1899

Calculators are constructed that begin to have some of the characteristics of computers as defined by Babbage. This era produces mainly calculators that have single predefined purposes.

The Zero-th computer generation start in this period too.

In this era, various companies will electrify the mechanical calculators and begin to add storage features, the ability to manipulate stored results, and the capability of printing the results to paper.

The industrial revolution is in full gear during this period and its great achievements are built on the use of numbers. Advances in practically all areas are bringing progress to commerce, transportation, manufacturing, and construction.

These advances also brought complex new engineering challenges.
Humans perform the complex calculations too slowly, and the results of human calculations were often inaccurate. Engineering and accounting needs create the desire for a machine that could rapidly perform many repetitive calculations with absolute accuracy.26

 

pre history | antiquity | pre industrial era | industrial era
1886 - 1900 - 1927 - 1938 - 1940 - 1944

 

The zero-th generation.

In general one might say that a "computer" is a mechanical or Electromechanical contraption. The calculations are performed in strict sequential order. Calculations will perform in predefined steps in a predefined order and there is no branching to other calculations, memory functions or such.
Read more at computer generations.

In the years that will follow more and more mechanical parts will be replaced by electrical circuits.
But developments in the field of computing in this era is going slow.
That is also because inventions and advances in computing do either overlap or are lost because they catch nobody's attention. Communication between scientists is still poor, inventions are kept close at chest or the intervals between meetings are too long.
Let alone the envy and jealousy that existed, and still exists, between scientists.

Just as an example: remember what happened with the infinitesimal calculus between Newton and Leibnitz in 1687?

It shall be some 100 years before computer science is recognized as a science at all. Until then it will be regarded as: "Wise men playing with their toys" and persons toying with these machines as "extravagant".

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1886

 

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Alexander Graham Bell (USA) uses the design of Edison's phonograph to make sound recordings on a waxed cylinder. The original sound (text) still can be heard from a tape: "Mary's little lamb...", the object is preserved in the Smithsonian's in Washington USA.

In later years this invention promoted the creation of tape recorders "to record sound" and later data recorders "to record data".

The Westinghouse Manufacturing Company, founded by George Westinghouse, installs the first alternating-current (AC) electrical power system in 1886 and fights to establish it as the standard in lieu of the early direct current (DC) system established by General Electric (GE). Both companies finally pool their patents and agree on the AC standard in America. (11)

American Arithmometer Company founded William Burroughs.

The connection between Boolean algebra and circuits based on switches is recognized by an educator called Charles Pierce, but nothing substantial happened in this area until Claude E. Shannon will publish his 1938 paper. (17)

1887

053.gif (17870 bytes)(9)By 1887 Dorr E. Felt had built eight machines and decided to try to sell them.

He encountered several problems. It was as much a struggle to get the machines on the market as it was to invent them. Also, he would have to train the operators. (Such training, incidentally, turned into a highly profitable sideline in later years.) According to Felt, college professors as a rule ignored this step forward into mechanical mathematics, and bookkeepers seemed to think that it was an interference with their chosen vocation.

However, in a few years the Comptometer, advertised as "The Machine Gun of the Office," and the Burroughs key driven adding and listing machines became the most popular accounting machines. (9) The picture shows the punch keyboard of such a Comptometer.

 

1888

Otto Büttner a mechanical engineer from Dresden Germany, develops a calculator that performed the four basic calculations.

This machine combined the stepping and gear wheel technology. And that makes this one a historical unique case in the development of calculators.

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William S. Burroughs (1857-1898), of St. Louis,  got his idea of building a calculator while working with Frank Stephen Baldwin, another inventor of calculating machines.

He patents an adding machine. And starts the construction in 1882; he resigned from a bank were he worked at that time in order to be able to fully dedicate his time towards the development of the adding machine.(9) He invents a machine similar to Felt's but more robust, and this is the one that really starts the office calculator industry. (This machine is still hand powered, but it won't take many years before electric calculators appear.) 10

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Burroughs receives his first patent in 1888 and had manufactured 50 machines by the next year. They proved impossible for anyone but Burroughs to operate. (There was one exception, a field agent who operated his calculator so well he refused to sell it, preferring to haul it from saloon to saloon in a wheelbarrow betting drinks on his accuracy.)

burrough portable

The machines were recalled and soon afterwards Burroughs invented a corrective automatic device. Shortly thereafter, he went to the room where the malfunctioning 50 were stored, carried them one by one to the window and hurled them to the pavement below. (9.

Four years later the machine will be improved to be able to subtract and print the results. It is the first key driven calculator that also prints its results.

burroughs

Key driven means by pressing a key the calculation will be executed immediately.
Up till now dials or registers and alike had to be set in advance. And to perform the calculation one had to turn a handle a number of times before results would show. With this invention one presses a key and the result is shown immediately. This was a killer machine!

While key driven machines were making the scene, another group of machines was under development using another principle: that of the cylinder with variable number of teeth.

Heinrich Herz experiments with electromagnetic waves that will become known as radio waves.

This discovery was the seedbed for the new technology of recording, CRT's, and sound.

Nikola Tesla patents the rotating field motor May 1, he later sells the rights to George Westinghouse.

This invention helps create and transmit AC power and today is still a method for generating and distributing AC power.

1889

 

Herman Hollerith (1860-1929 USA) constructs the first electromechanical adding and sorting machine. The machine is made in this year and demonstrated to some persons. But the only way to sell this machine was to enter a contest and prove its usefulness. Hollerith wins the contest and his machine will be used with the census in 1890. The machine is ready with the data processing one whole year before anything done by hand would have been ready. (1) Of course this establishes automation and people become convinced of the speed and accuracy of machines like that. Hollerith will found Tabulating and Recording Company. This company, with other mergers as well, will become the IBM company(9)

Hollerith's original patent (download apr. 1Mb)

 

  (9)

A 19-year-old Frenchman, Leon Bollee of Le Mans, unaware of Verea's patent, built his own machine: "machine a calculer".

The machine was a direct multiplier, using the principle of a built-in multiplication table.

bollee 1889

picture digitally enhanced by thocp, courtesy musee des arts et metiers (18)

It was huge, unhandsome and impractical. Bollee built several of these machines as well as other smaller types, but in later years he became more interested in designing, building and racing light automobiles.(9) One of his machines can be seen at the "Musee des Arts et Techniques" in Paris, France.

 

First printing desk calculator is invented by Dorr E Felt.

 

1890

US Census results are tabulated for the first time with significant mechanical aid by the punch card tabulators of Herman Hollerith (1860-1929) of MIT, Cambridge, Mass.

This is the start of the punch card industry. The cost of the census tabulation is 98% *higher* than the previous one, in part because of the temptation to use the machines to the fullest and tabulate more data than formerly possible, but the tabulation is completed in a much shorter time. Another precedent is that the cards are read electrically.(14)
Jun 1, The U.S. census stands at 62,622,250. The US government uses the Jean Baptiste Pacard card punch to tabulate the results of the census. Herman Hollerith designs a system that uses a machine with a sorter.(15)

Mar 11, Vannevar Bush is born. He developed the 1st electronic analogue computer.

1891

Philips & Co. is founded by Gerard Philips in Eindhoven (the Netherlands), Philips first products will be light bulbs

 

1892

The first commercially successful desk calculator is sold by William Burroughs.

Burroughs started construction in 1888. His machine is similar to Felt's but more robust, and this is the one that really starts the office calculator industry.(14) Earlier attempts were made but were unsuccessful


1893

Four years after Bollee's invention a machine is introduced by a Swiss :Otto Steiger. His machine is using the multiplication table block from Bollee's machine in a commercially marketable form.(9)

 

 

 

The machine, called the Millionaire, was developed primarily for big business.(9)

 

 

 

and was immediately used by scientists.(9)

 

 

 

 

1894

Guglielmo Marconi builds the first radio transmitter. A bell could be sounded at a distance of 10 meters with this technology.

27. November. In Wakayamy in Japan Konosuke Matsushita (Mat-Sosch-ta) is born.

He will found Matsushita Electric Corp. MEC will merge with amongst others: JVC, Panasonic, Loewe Optra Technics, Panasonic and National. And thus become the worlds largest (consumer) electronics company well into the 21st century.


1895

 (9)
In the past few years the development of calculating devices mushroomed.

And inventions were daily news. It is therefore remarkable that no radically new concepts evolved from the data processing industry from 1890 to the late 1930's.
But still some very significant technological discoveries were made in the communications and electronics industries which ultimately had a huge effect upon the course of data processing. Shown here is the collator and the tabulator.

 

In 1888 Obeline Smith made the basic suggestion for magnetic storage of data. In 1895, Poulsen invented the magnetic recorder.

Ludwig Boltzmann (1844--1906) Austrian physicist and philosopher, held the chair of Mach from 1902--1905. He introduced the H-Theorem in his lectures on Gas Theory, which formed the basis for Shannon's Information Theory.

Entropy Formula (Boltzmann)  S = k.logW

 

One of these famous "he couldn't be wrong more"

1895/1899

"Everything that needed to be invented is now invented."

Lord Kelvin, president of the Royal Society of the UK

 

1896

Hollerith founds the first company that will later become part of IBM: Computing Tabulating Recording (CTR)

 

1897

Sir Joseph John Tompson 1856-1940 (USA) discovers the electron.(12) The first smaller than an atom part. He uses the improved hydrogen vacuum pumps to get this results.

German scientist Karl Ferdinand Braun invents the Cathode-Ray Oscilloscope.

 

1898

Valdemar Poulsen invents a magnetic wire on which data can be recorded.

This is a very important invention because later this principle will be used for magnetic tapes and consequently magnetic drums and platters. The latter will be called hard disks.

Sir Joseph John Thomson (1856-1940) discovers the electron

 

1899

The 17th of July, NEC Corporation is founded

 

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