Computer Collection Before Computers
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Before Computers

Before there were electronic computers most of the tasks we now do with a computer were done other ways. In many cases quite sophisticated electromechanical devices were developed to help. The collection contains several different kinds of these obsolete and nearly vanished machines.

Adding machines and calculators

Burroughs Accounting Machine

Burroughs Accounting Machine This is a big adding machine which can create columns of numbers and dates. It has both an electric motor and a hand crank, in case the electricity goes out. There are several calculators in the collection from hand operated to electric to the first programmable electronic calculators. more...

Monroe Manual Rotary Calculator

Monroe Manual Rotary Calculator There were "computers" when this was made, but they were people not machines. They worked in "computer rooms" full of small desks.

This crank driven machine multiplies quickly and easily. You set one number in the keys, then crank the big crank forward one turn to add one and back to subtract. For each digit, you crank forward that many times and then turn the handle on the front a half-turn to move the carriage over one position. Then you do the next digit, and so on. The answer shows up in the bottom dials. In the picture, the machine has just completed 435x12=5220.

Division works like multiplication in reverse, and the answer shows up in the top dials. The little crank resets the counters. more...

Monroe Systems is still in business and happy to talk about their products old and new. Here is some of a manual (in PDF) for a later Monroe calculator.

Olivetti Programma 101

Olivetti Programma 101 This was one of the very first programmable electronic calculators. It is implemented with discrete plastic transistors and uses an acoustic delay line memory. more...

Punched Card Equipment

IBM 026 Keypunch IBM 026 Keypunch and IBM 082 Sorter IBM 082 Sorter

Herman Hollerith invented punched card data processing for the Census of 1890. From the 20's through the 50's electromechanical machines like this card punch and card sorter were the mainstay of business data processing. Here is a video clip of the IBM 082 sorter in operation. The collection includes two nearly complete sets of punched card equipment, one set representing the final models from the 50's and 60's and the other set preceding that from the 30's and 40's.

Analog Computers

Systron Donner Analog Computer

Systron Donner Analog Computer Some electronic computers used analog voltage levels instead of binary numbers. They could solve complex equations but were limited to about three digits of precision. They couldn't do most of the things computers do today.

This one was programmed by wiring the patch panel on the top. The knobs are used for input data, and the answer reads on the meter. more...

The collection also includes an early Heathkit analog computer.

Letterpress Printing Shop

The printing industry was already in a major transition from letterpress with "hot" metal type to offset lithography and photographic "cold" type when computers came along and hijacked the revolution.

The collection includes a complete small letterpress printing shop with some hand-set type, a Linotype and other hot-metal equipment, cabinets and imposing stones, an old Chandler & Price platen press and a Miehle V50 vertical cylinder press.

> to the Letterpress Printing Shop

More technology before computers in the library...

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