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The era of Antiquity (continued)

1773 - 1809

The era of Antiquity can be seen as the era of calculator devices without memory. Dial or indicators serve as output mechanism.

  • Electricity is reinvented by Alexander Volta.
  • Jaquard invented his "Automated Loom

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


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Pierre and Henry Louis Jaquet-Droz (Swiss) invented the first automaton that could write.

Soon after that they build another automaton that drew a portrait of King Louis XV. Taking the word 'robot' in a broad sense, we might say that these machines were some of the first robots.


Louis XV drawing from a later draughtsman(5)

read how does a transistor work on robotics


Philip Matthaeus Hahn (Germany) develops a machine that very much resembled that of Braun.

He used the cylinder principle of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz.

The first telegraph is built.  




Charles, 3rd earl of Stanhope developed calculators that multiplied and divided through multiple subtractions and adding.

A calculator that is similar to Leibnitz's stepped cillinder principle.

stanhope's calculator(13b)






Stanhope continued to construct new machines. 

Neither of Stanhope's machines embodied new mechanical systems, but they were ruggedly constructed and more reliable then others. Technical skills now had a chance to catch up with inventive capacity.

improved stanhope calculator(13b)


 slide demonstrator by stanhope
Stanhope also devised and published a simple machine that mechanized logical relations.

This was the beginning of a new attitude in which computers were considered as mechanical embodiments of generalized mathematical processes, rather than simple arithmetic machines.(13b)




Charles Mahon invented the logic demonstrator. A device that solved arithmetic problems in a logical form.



Charles Stanhope demonstrated his logical calculator.

This machine clearly demonstrated that when one has a good "method of calculation and logic" it should be possible to built this logic into machines that made logical decisions. But Stanhope's machines left much to the operator for interpretation, which made the machine difficult to use and the outcome questionable.   


Think about this...

This problem of user interface and ease of use is a common problem, and it will probably take a long time before enough intelligence is built into machines that they can solve problems before they occur. Maybe the ease-of-use versus necessary training-to-use aspect will never be solved, because systems get more complicated all the time. To solve it you need something that is even more complicated, but that will cause again new problems etc. etc.


It was one of the earliest logical machines though. Stanhope's use of it might again be questionable in the light of pure logic but the idea was born and was going to be very important for the future development  of computers.



American Benjamin Franklin discovers electricity.




In a letter Johann Mueller (1746-1830) wrote about his intention to build a machine that could calculate every form of calculation and print the answers. "All one has to do is to turn a handle".

This letter contained the earliest reference of a machine that would also print the results. In another letter he described plans for a machine to calculate square roots and cubes by means of series of differences. Mueller envisioned the difference engine 36 years before Babbage!.(8)



Details of  J.H. Muellers' machine will be published in a book of which chapters have been translated for Charles Babbage by John Hershel.

The date of this translation is unknown and the question remains whether some of Mueller's ideas have been used for Babbage's machine.
But that will be the case for many inventions in the history (of computing) to come.(16) Especially when money is involved, people or companies will object and demand a royalty to be paid (17) or will otherwise force the user to pay a fine and remove the invention from his work(s).



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Edward (Nedd) Ludd (England), was not fully witted as is said, and destroyed sock knitting machines.

He became the talisman of a movement starting in Nottingham, England, that consisted of uncontended workers moving through England, whom destroyed all kinds of machines on their way. Ludd's followers have the following credo: "No the general but Ludd looks after the interest of the poor men".(15)
This group caused a path of destruction through England until 1815. At night they wore masks and broke into workshops and factories to destroy looms, machines or anything that looked like mass production. Their idea was that all this machinery (mechanization and automation) would put them out of jobs. And they where (temporarily) not far from the truth. This is not the first time people rise against technology but it is the first time a movement like that left a word: Luddite. A Luddite is someone resisting new technology.

Readhow does a transistor workon "Luddites"


voltaic element - batteryElectricity was pulled from oblivion by Alessandro Volta

And by experimenting, he succeeded to build the so-called Voltaic Element (see figure), a primitive battery that was constructed from layers of copper and silver plates with pieces of leather or cardboard in between. This contraption was put in a salty solution and produced electrical current.

Among one of his experiments with electricity was a demonstration for Napoleon to prove that you could twitch frog legs with the help of electricity. Since Napoleon regarded science as a means of warfare, and Napoleon was interested enough to sponsor Volta.

Auch calculator
picture: courtesy Boerhave museum, Leiden, Netherlands

A more advanced Pacaline 'calculator' is made by Jacob Auch, royal machanic at the Weimar court (Germany) a very rare machine to add and substract.

At the lower left there is an instruction on the machine in German: use black to add and red to substract.




(1804 (10),1805(11)) The reason different years are mentioned here is that some authors are giving contradicting information, click on hyperlinks for more information.

Joseph-Marie Jaquard (France) invented a programmable loom working on the principle of punched cards.

This idea was not new but Falcon improved on it. The type of punched cards developed by Jacquard was one with a special pattern. During the process of weaving a series of rods were pulling threads through the weaving bed. The punched card's role was to keep back some of the rods that not belonged to the pattern in the card. In this way a special pattern could be chosen by selecting the proper cards that would create that pattern.

The "Jacquard" machine is quite successful and over 100,000 will be produced in the next 10 years.

As you can guess the weavers were all very much against this machine and destroyed the machine on sight.

This was not a very good start for the art, or better the craft, of programming. But the cards remained part of weaving machines deep into the 1980's. Generally this card was regarded as the forerunner of the punched card that stayed in use until the late 1980's and beyond in some type of production machines.



Last Updated on 14 January, 2006

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