calculator

calculator or calculating machine, device for performing numerical computations; it may be mechanical, electromechanical, or electronic. The electronic computer is also a calculator but performs other functions as well.

Mechanical and Electromechanical Calculators

Early devices used to aid in calculation include the abacus (still common in E Asia) and the counting rods, or "bones," of the Scottish mathematician John Napier. The slide rule, invented in 1622 by William Oughtred, an English mathematician, was widely used to make approximate calculations, but it has been replaced by the electronic calculator. In 1642, Blaise Pascal devised what was probably the first simple adding machine using geared wheels.

In 1671 an improved mechanism for performing multiplication by the process of repeated addition was designed by Gottfried W. von Leibniz. A machine using the Leibniz mechanism was the first to be produced successfully on a commercial scale; devised in 1820 by the Frenchman Charles X. Thomas, it could be used for adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing. A mechanism permitting the construction of a more compact machine than the Leibniz mechanism was incorporated into a machine devised late in the 19th cent. by the American inventor Frank S. Baldwin. Later the machine was redesigned by Baldwin and another American inventor, Jay R. Monroe. At about the same time, W. T. Odhner of Russia constructed a machine using the same device as Baldwin's. Charles Babbage, an English mathematician, and William S. Burroughs, an American inventor, also made important contributions to the development of the calculating machine.

Early mechanical adding machines were equipped with a keyboard on which numbers to be added were entered, a lever to actuate the addition process, and an accumulator to display the results. A full keyboard consisted of 10 columns of keys with 9 keys in each column, numbered 1 through 9. Each column could be used to enter a figure in a particular decimal place so that a number up to 10 digits long could be entered; if no key was pressed in a given column, a zero was entered in that decimal place. The lever was pulled in one direction when a number was to be added and in the opposite direction when it was to be subtracted. The accumulator was a set of geared wheels, each corresponding to a decimal place and having the digits 0 through 9 printed on its circumference. When a given wheel made a complete rotation, the next wheel was advanced by one digit. The mechanical adding machine remained essentially the same until the mid-1960s, with improvements consisting of motors to actuate additions and subtractions and mechanisms to print out results on a paper tape.

Electronic Calculators

Electronic calculators, which became available in the early 1960s, at first were merely faster and quieter adding machines. The invention of the microprocessor and advances in integrated-circuit technology made small, but highly sophisticated, calculators possible, and by the mid-1970s they were in wide use. Simple calculators perform only the basic four functions of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. More sophisticated calculators can perform trigonometric, statistical, logarithmic, and other advanced calculations.

Some electronic calculators are actually small computers with limited memory and programming capabilities. Some of these programmable calculators can accept plug-in semiconductor memory cards or programming modules for special applications, such as financial calculations, unit, currency, or number-system conversions, or engineering calculations. Others are also available that include nonmathematical functions such as data storage and schedule organizing. The personal digital assistant, a hand-held device optimized as an organizer with communications capability and accepting handwritten input, is a bridge from calculators to full computer function.

Early electronic calculators had numeric displays made from light-emitting diodes (LEDs). They have been supplanted by liquid-crystal displays (LCDs), whose lower power consumption helps to reduce battery drain. Some calculators use an LCD readout to provide a graphic, as well as numeric, display. CMOS, or complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (see integrated circuit), technology is also preferred for battery-operated models because of its low-power requirements. Some calculators are powered by solar cells in ordinary room light.

Bibliography

See B. Randell, The Origins of Digital Computers: Selected Papers (1982); J. P. Haney, Calculators (3d ed. 1985).

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Calculator

The calculator is a computing machine. Basic calculators perform basic mathematical functions (addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication). More sophisticated calculators can perform functions of the higher-based mathematical branches of trigonometry and calculus. The odometer, or mileage counter, in an automobile is a counting machine, as is the pocket calculator and the personal computer. They may have different ability levels, but they all tally numbers.

Early calculators

Although the abacus, the first tool of calculation, has existed since ancient times, advanced calculating machines did not appear until the early 1600s. Blaise Pascal, a French scientist and philosopher, developed in 1642 the

Pascaline, a machine capable of adding and subtracting nine-digit numbers. Figures were entered by moving numbered wheels linked to each other by gear, similar to a modern automobile's odometer. In 1671, German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz improved Pascal's design, creating a machine that performed multiplication. In 1820, Frenchman Charles X. Thomas devised a machine that added subtraction and division to a Leibniz-type calculator. It was the first mass-produced calculator, and it became a common sight in business offices.

Over the next century, mathematicians and inventors improved upon the designs of previous calculating machines. In 1875, American inventor Frank Stephen Baldwin received the first patent for a calculating machine. Baldwin's machine did all four basic mathematical functions and did not need to be reset after each computation. With the need for more accurate record keeping in the business world, calculating machines that used motors to tally larger and larger numbers and mechanisms to print out results on paper were devised. These mechanical machines remained essentially unchanged until the mid-1960s.

Electronic calculators

The integrated circuit chiptiny, complex electronic circuits on a single chip of siliconwas invented in 1959 by Texas Instruments and Fairchild (a semiconductor manufacturing company). Although integrated circuits allowed calculators to become much faster and smaller, those early electronic calculators were still just adding machines. In 1970, however, the development of the microprocessorwhich incorporated the circuitry of the integrated circuit and the entire central processing unit of a computer onto a single chipchanged the computing industry. The microprocessor made pocket-sized, highly sophisticated calculators possible.

Today, pocket calculators with a wide range of functions are available, including programmable calculators that are in effect miniature computers. Some calculators are powered by solar cells in ordinary room light. More than 50 million portable calculators are sold in the United States each year, many for less than \$10.

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calculator

calculator A small electronic device by means of which arithmetic operations can be performed on numbers entered from a keyboard. Final solutions and intermediate numbers are generally presented on LCDs. Calculators range from very cheap simple devices capable of performing the basic arithmetic operations to those whose capabilities extend to sophisticated mathematical and statistical manipulation and that may be programmed with large numbers of steps. Add-on memory modules containing sets of specialist programs for particular fields – engineering, navigation, or business for example – may be purchased as accessories to the more expensive calculators, as can small printers.

The dividing line between sophisticated calculators and small personal computers, such as notebooks and pocketbooks, has become less clear-cut; there are significant overlaps in both price and power.

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calculator

cal·cu·la·tor / ˈkalkyəˌlātər/ • n. something used for making mathematical calculations, in particular a small electronic device with a keyboard and a visual display.