Mechanical Mathematic Devices Reviewed and Explained!
April 7, 2018 7:10 PM   Subscribe

Behold the Addiator! I know what you’re thinking. For all of the cool mechanical calculators and mathematic engines and adding machines in everyday use that existed before the microchip, folks just can’t choose between. There should be someone to review mechanical math devices, who’s snarky and sarcastic and enthusiastic about these machines, and can explain how they work so you can follow along. Well! Here we are! This is the YouTube channel, owned and operated by Chris Staecker, mathematician, educator and collector! It begins with Napier’s Bones, and winds up at the Instrument Traverse Nomogram!
posted by Slap*Happy (15 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
To follow up on my own post, the Napier's Bones link is worth the trip.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:25 PM on April 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

The best thing about watching a bunch of these is that I now know some company has re-released the monkey multiplier and you can purchase a brand new one for about 15 bucks. Great post!
posted by wittgenstein at 7:49 PM on April 7, 2018

As MLP fan, I was delighted by the Hasbro calculator.
I was surprised not to find an episode on the Curta calculator, but that might be yet to come.
posted by bouvin at 4:01 AM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Fun - I watched a bunch of these last night - very entertaining!
posted by parki at 5:07 AM on April 8, 2018

I enjoyed how the review of the Monkey Multiplier turned into a philosophical discussion of the Chinese Room problem. These videos are amazing.
posted by Triplanetary at 9:17 AM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

These are fascinating.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:04 AM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

“Napier’s Bones!” always sounds to me like a catchphrase from an obscure Stan Lee/Jack Kirby comic, maybe the ‘Mazing Multiplier or the Canny Calculator...
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:19 AM on April 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Does he do that cylindrical calculator you twist? I didn't see it and don't recall the name of it.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 11:33 AM on April 8, 2018

In the past I have read about Napier's Bones (terrific marketing name btw) and was cool to see them used.
posted by parki at 12:35 PM on April 8, 2018

I cycle on Napier Road every time I ride to central london (because I refuse to take the Kensington High Street until CS9 is built and extended along it), and I always think of Napier's Bones.

And yes, I had always thought "Great Napier's Bones!" could be like "Great Caesar's Gost!", too!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 12:43 PM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I swear as a child we had an Addiator like device, not quite like what was in this post but it had a stylus
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 1:38 PM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

The polar planimeter one is good, though he doesn't demonstrate good technique. They're killer accurate if you set 'em up right.

I suspect the reason he doesn't have a Curta is that he's on an academic salary. Those things are rare and expensive.
posted by scruss at 1:40 PM on April 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

I have an Addiator. I purchased it at an estate sale of an old machinist, along with a few other gee gaws. The one I think is kind of cool is a gizmo called a Caliputer, which is a pocket sized stainless steel 4" vernier caliper with an that reads down to .001" (or should... the slide is a bit sloppy sideways and gives errors as a result), an integral slide rule that also calculates things like circumference, square roots and cutting speed, though the last one seems more puzzling even to me, a machinist. I think it's from the 1950s and was manufactured in Southern California.

The Addiator came with the stylus, but no instructions, so I set it aside, not quite understanding how to use it. I figured it was some kind of calculator, but wasn't sure how it worked. My son played with it a while and figured it out, though. Kind of a neat device.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:56 PM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ah here it is! Curta Mechanical Calculator
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 10:39 PM on April 8, 2018

The Curta is a massively over-engineered device built to very high tolerances by expert machinists, manufactured in Lichtenstein of all places, and featured as a nerd-shibboleth in a William Gibson novel, and not one of the fun ones where the AI's have convinced themselves they're deities from a Caribbean pantheon. It's a Macguffin Silly Valley illionaires auction back and forth to each other. It's like a Stradivarius only you need to read the manual before playing it, as it's weird.

I like the Addiator better. I bought a cheap knock-off one made in Taiwan when I was in Third Grade at "School Store." It was a quarter, red metal and black plastic, and I still had 75¢ to buy my Mom a little pewter fox. Most of my essay about economics and budgeting was about how I liked my Mom. My Dad, engineer and aficionado of tech in the '70s, stole and I believe broke it accidentally, as it went missing shortly thereafter.

Is OK, we wound up with a Timex-Sinclair with a custom-built, hand-soldered mech keyboard, briefly a TI-99, and then a C=64 right up through Highshcool.

All of his kids now work in IT.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:21 PM on April 10, 2018

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