In order to provide access to them, this section of this site lists a small number of historical technical objects held in association with Collection Calculant, but at first glance distant from its theme: They are:

It may seem a bit of a stretch, but if there is a connection between these two devices and the rest of collection calculant it is that they represent two sign posts to the context of extraordinary technical advances that were being forged over the late Modern period. In particular they are artifacts which form part of the tapestry of massive changes that took place in the few decades lying within a short period, (roughly, say) from the commencement of the American Civil War (1861) to the First World War (1939)

It was during this short period when, as part of a broader transformation, hand powered mechanical devices would meet their nemesis through the application of electricity. The dramatically reshaped capabilities this would provide would contribute significantly to the rapid transformation of the social, political and economic landscape. As another strand of this, calculators would move forward from comparitively clumsy devices - initially items of curiosity, possessed by some gentleman as a sign of their intellectual curiosity, to increasingly streamlined instruments able to be applied effectively in industrial, commercial and even domestic settings.

Other devices would evolve in synchrony. In 1857 Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville devised his “phonautograph”, the first mechanical device able to transcribe sound from a vibrating membrane to a trace on carbon paper. That was in the same period that Thomas de Colmar brought the technical and commercial sides of mechanical calculating into a genuinely commercially realisable form. And in 1880, James Wimshurst, developed a machine for generating high voltages by accumulating static charges - the basis for brilliant sparks across the air gap between two conducting balls.

Soon, mechanical motion - whether to capture sound and reproduce it, or to capture charge and accumulate it - would lead to the development of electrical generators and motors. By 1925 their development would allow mechanical means of transcription of sound on and off ‘records’ to be replaced by electromagnetic methods. In parallel, with increasing capability and decreasing cost of production, new social aspirations would spread across whole societies - from being able to reproduce the sound of an orchestra in a person’s living room, to being able to perform arithmetic with the assistance of their own personal calculating machine.

Of the above the two items in this collection - the E.M.G Xa gramophone (from 1932) which is regarded in the world of phonograph cognoscenti as one of the biggest and best mechanical gramophones ever made, and a late demonstration Wimshurst machine (1910) are but two examples from this avalanche of technical and social change. Here, it is sufficient to note that the revolution in technological development, and the social changes that occurred in parallel, are still shaping and being shaped by the realisation of their ever maturing capabilities across the entire planet.

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Page last modified on 30 January 2016