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Home > Computer Articles > History Of The Calculator

From The Abacus To The Computer

Throughout time, people have been looking for ways to make counting an easier process. From earliest times, counting and simple arithmetic was mainly a manual process. However, in ancient Mesopotamia, a device called an abacus first appeared. This was the very first calculator, which helped people with simple arithmetic. From this simple device to today’s computer, people have used devices to help with their calculation needs.

The history of the calculator dates back to the Mesopotamian abacus. An abacus is a simple device where a series of beads are placed on a wire frame. Each column had ten beads which represented the ones column, tens column, hundreds column and so on. To count using an abacus, people would simply move the beads to add or subtract.

The abacus has changed throughout time to suit people’s needs. Many different versions of the abacus began to appear in Russia, China, Japan and many other lands. Each used the same principle but were slightly different in usage.


Early Mechanical Calculators

The abacus was a nice way to do simple addition and subtraction, but it was still a manual process. People began looking for ways to make calculations automated. In the 19th Century, many advances in using machines to do calculations were made. Beginning with the invention of the Arithmometer in 1820, it became the first commercially produced mechanical calculator.

Throughout the late 1800’s, inventors made enhancements to the original concept of the mechanical calculator. These include the use of a key driven calculator called the Comptometer in 1886, the invention of the printing calculator by William Burroughs in 1892 and the Millionaire calculator, which began multiplication in 1893.

In the 20th Century, calculators had many innovations that made calculations easy for users. In the early 1900’s the mechanical calculators became popular. While the functionality was limited, the business world embraced the invention as it made their jobs easier.


First Electric Calculators

During the later portion of the 1900’s, the trend in calculating started to go to electric calculators. The advancements in the technology of computing allowed calculators to become smaller and be more efficient. Companies such as IBM, Casio, Olivetti and Texas Instruments began to introduce handheld calculators which were able to do a wide range of calculations for people.

The modern calculator has advanced substantially from the early days of calculating. The functionality of the newest calculators is the same as many personal computers. Not only can calculators do basic arithmetic, but specialty calculators such as programmable calculators and scientific calculators can do a wide variety of functions.

While calculators have advanced over the years from the simple abacus to multi-function calculators, the continued technological advancements will continue to affect how we use calculators. Today, handheld calculators are still popular; however, with Used Computers, cheap laptops, handheld PDA’s and the smart phone revolution, it is slowly becoming obsolete as a stand-alone product.

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