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The era of Antiquity (continued)

1874 - 1884

The telephone and vacuum tube were invented in this period. More complicated calculators capable of more functions came on the market

There was a lot of political turmoil especially in Europe and Asia, which lead to World War I.

Of all inventions the vacuum tube was the most important: it speeded up computers with a factor 100.


pre history | antiquity | pre industrial era | industrial era
1620 - 1672 - 1773 - 1810 - 1830 - 1846 - 1874

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A year later in Russia, a Swede, Wilgodt Odhner, patented a machine that is almost identical to Baldwin's.

Another one of those historical accidents: Odhner was working for Ludvig Nobel in St. Petersburg, and while there, with Nobel's support, began work on his calculator. His plan - to design and manufacture an industrial calculator that would be small and simple, easy to operate, and so inexpensive that practically anyone who needed a mechanical aid would be able to buy one.22b



The French engineer E. Baudot (1845-1903) invents the Baudot-Telegraph. He calls the transmission speed Baud.

At left a typewriter of earlier years, you can imagine that it needs improvement to become commercially attractive.

franklin_earlytypewriter.gif (39360 bytes)

It is Christopher Latham Sholes that improves the previous design by adding a roll for paper and an ink ribbon. The first successful modern typewriter is realized.

Remington Rand introduced its first commercial typewriter. (See below).(24)

Remington nr 1

The typewriter will develop via Teletype machine(20)  to a keyboard: a flat box of just an few centimeters high with keys in the same order (QWERTY) as the old typewriter(21). Until far into the 21st century that will remain the most used way to enter data into computers. See also 1878

Feb 17, Thomas J. Watson Sr. (d.1956), U.S. industrialist, is born in upstate New York.

In 1914 he will begin running the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co., a predecessor to IBM. He will transform the financially ailing manufacturing business into the international giant IBM.(3)



bell_alexander_sitting.gif (17715 bytes)bell_graham2.jpg (1966 bytes)Alexander Graham Bell(USA) fraudulently appropriates the invention of the telephone.

Actually the telephone was invented by Antonio Meucci in 1860 and recognized in court in 2002(7). Sadly enough this kind of appropriation repeats itself a few times throughout history; a clear example is the invention of the first electronic binary computer by Atanasoff in 1939. Though Bell did not invent the telephone, his money made it possible not only to twist justice but also to make the telephone a commercial viable product.

Bell demonstrates this invention to the Academy of Sciences at right.

The age of telecommunication started via telephone wires. To select a number was a matter of turning a handle. This activated an induction coil to generate power to ring a bell. It rang a bell at everybody's home or room at the same time. Seen below is the original setup Bell used and can be seen at the S.I. in Washington USA.

phone_original_bell.jpg (39401 bytes)(23)

It will take computers about a century to start using telephone lines.
And as may be expected from our sometimes notorious curiosity, systems like this are very tempting to explore how it works, sometimes for profit but mostly for curiosity.


One of these famous citations of "They could'nt be wrong more"


"The telephone has too many problems to be considered a serious method of communicacion. The invention has no value for us"

Internal memo of Western Union.


In this year Baron Kelvin built the first analogue machine: the "Harmonic Analyzer". This machine predicted the tides.(22)(25)


Chambon & Baye, 1 "TACHYLEMME" Table, Writable or Readable Memory, Mechanically stable, ca 1876, France.

tachylemme 1876
picture: courtesy microsoft (10)

This instrument shows the daily interest on sums of money at various rates. (11)

A calculating device with four printed cylinders 1-9; 10-90; 100-900; and 1000-9000 so arranged that percentages for every half percent from one to six percent can be read through slits. The total of say 6,216 at 4 percent could be figured by adding the sums shown in the four rows.(10)



Alexander Graham Bell's took two key patents on the telephone in 1876 and 1877, these patents became the base of American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) founded by Bell in Massachusetts in 1877. (26)



In 1878, Ramon Verea, a Spaniard living in New York, invents the first direct multiplying and devision machine.

vera_calculator 1878(8)

'Direct' means that only one turn of the crank for each figure in the multiplier was needed to perform the calculation, rather than the previously used repeated additions this is much faster than the shifting carriage or other digital methods. His device "looked up" the product of two numbers on a pair of cylinders, and multiplied the inner gears accordingly. Verea tells a New York herald reporter that he did not make the machine to sell the patent or to put it to use, but simply to show that it could be done and that a Spaniard can invent as well as an American. The machine did not receive much publicity. 22b The machine is presented in the IBM museum.

qwertyThe name "QWERTY" for a (typewriter) keyboard comes from the first six letters in the top alphabet row; the ones below the numbers on the top row.(9)

qwerty patent
qwerty patent drawing

It is also called the "Universal" keyboard for rather obvious reasons. It was the work of inventor C. L. Sholes, who put together the prototypes of the first commercial typewriter in a Milwaukee machine shop back in the 1860's. This arrangement stuck for some reasons. One of them: being the first to market.

Sholes typewriter 1878



G. Frege is one of the founders of modern symbolic languages.

He proposes a system of notation that we now know as 'proposition logic'. His method will be used extensively in knowledge systems in the field of Artificial Intelligence from the late 1900's onwards.


vacuum tubeThough Thomas Alva Edison (USA) invents the first light bulb that can burn a long time.

Edison did not invent the lightbulb as commonly assumed. But it was he whom made the first practical and commercial viable and endurable lightbulb. From this light bulb the first vacuum tubes will evolve, these will be used in early electronic computers. (ABC - ENIAC - Colossus - Mark I etc.)



A committee investigates the feasibility of completing the Analytical Engine and concludes that it is impossible now that Babbage is dead.(2)




062 odhner

V.T. Odhner parts company with Nobel and started his own company.

In 1886 he begins to manufacture the "Original Odhner" in Russia. An adding machine with a rack-wheel with variable number wheels. A later model called the Felix will be released in 1890. The Odhner machine sells very well all over Europe and sold until the first three or four decades of the 20th century.(4) However, patent rights for Germany had been bought by another firm, Grimme Natalis, which improved the patents and placed a similar machine on the market.  22b




K. Hattori Co. Ltd is founded, in 1892 its name will be changed into Seikosha Co. Ltd. And in 1985 the name will be changed again. Now into SEIKO EPSON Corp., Epson stands for Son of Electronic Printer. (1)



American Thomas Edison discovers the Edison effect, in which a electric current flows through a vacuum.


Time Line

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in 1880 his Morgenrote and other works that oppose Romanticism. "Art, philosophy and religion are illusions", he said.

Nietzsche and his supporters shall greatly influence the philosophical mainstream of this epoch: Existentialism.



Herman Hollerith (USA) applies for his patent on the punched card. It is a card with 45 evenly spread holes in rows of 5 by 9. Each hole can be given a special meaning.

Example: Initially such a card does not have holes (a blank card). We could say that if there is a hole on row number 3 position 4,  the subject is married. If there is a hole on position 5,2 the subject belongs to a group that is younger than 45 but older than 40.
This example is taken on purpose, because the first non-experimental use of the punched card system will be used by the census bureau of the USA a few years later.


051.gif (21291 bytes)Dorr E. Felt, a 24-year-old machinist finally finds the answer to the problem that calculators were overshooting their maximum number range and thus jamming or giving wrong answers.

He chooses Thanksgiving Day, 1884 to start the project.
Felt has solved the over-rotation problem by providing positive stops that are activated by the keys themselves. He knew his machines have to calculate faster than accountants, many of whom can mentally add four columns of figures at one time.22b For years, Eugene Felt kept his original hand-made model on his desk at the Comptometer factory as a reminder of the company's humble beginning. Today the prototype can be seen at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.(5)

The IEE (Institute of Electrical Engeneers) is founded. It is one of the societies that will greatly stimulate the development of Electrical Engineering(1)

John Henry Paterson founds his company to produce cash registers it is named: NCR (National Cash Register).



First variable toothed gear calculator Frank Baldwin (USA) and W T Odhner (Sweden) A multiplying calculator more compact than the Arithmometer enters mass production (2)

First printing adding machine. William Burroughs patents an adding machine that prints lists of added numbers.(2)

gernailleDuring a session of the Académie française, Edouard Lucas propones a mathematical problem.

This drew the attention of Henri Genaille a French engineer employed by the French railways. In 1891 he showed his calculatiing chart to the Académie française. Together with Lucas he drew the following multiplication table:

gernaille_lucas_multiplicationtable gernaille_lucas_example

examples taken from: http://www.animath.fr/UE/Charb/Charb.html



18741886timeline indexinformation about this sectionGo to main pagesearch this site Last Updated on October 5, 2006 For suggestions please mail the editors 


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