A Chronology of Digital Computing Machines (to 1952)

A Chronology...The Jargon FileComputer Dictionary
Wilhelm Schickard (1592-1635), of Tübingen, Württemberg (now in Germany), makes his "Calculating Clock". This is a 6-digit machine that can add and subtract, and perhaps includes an overflow indicator bell. Mounted on the machine is a set of Napier's Rods, a memory aid facilitating multiplications. The machine and plans are lost and forgotten in the war that is going on. (The plans were rediscovered in 1935, lost again in the war, and re-rediscovered by the same man in 1956! The machine was reconstructed in 1960 and found to be workable.)
Schickard was a friend of the astronomer Kepler.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), of Paris, makes his "Pascaline". This 5-digit machine can only add, and that probably not as reliably as Schickard's, but at least it doesn't get forgotten - it establishes the computing machine concept in the intellectual community. (Pascal sold about 10-15 of the machines, some supporting as many as 8 digits, and a number of pirated copies were also sold. No patents...)
This is the same Pascal who invented the bus.
Gottfriend Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716), of Leipzig, makes his "Stepped Reckoner". This uses a movable carriage so that it can multiply, with operands of up to 5 and 12 digits and a product of up to 16. But its carry mechanism requires user intervention and doesn't really work in all cases anyway. The calculator is powered by a crank.
This is the same Leibniz or Leibnitz who co-invented calculus.
Charles, the third Earl Stanhope, of England, makes a successful multiplying calculator similar to Leibniz's.
Mathieus Hahn, somewhere in what is now Germany, also makes a successful multiplying calculator.
J. H. Müller, of the Hessian army, conceives the idea of what came to be called a "difference engine". That's a special-purpose calculator for tabulating values of a polynomial, given the differences between certain values so that the polynomial is uniquely specified; it's useful for any function that can be approximated by a polynomial over suitable intervals. Müller's attempt to raise funds fails and the project is forgotten.
Delicious Digg reddit Facebook StumbleUpon