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## Thomas Arithmometer – 1851 A.D.

1851

Thomas Arithmometer

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716), Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar (1785–1870)

“German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Leibniz became interested in mechanical calculation after seeing a pedometer while visiting Paris in 1672. He invented a new type of gear that could advance a 10-digit dial exactly 0 to 9 places, depending on the position of a lever, and used it in a machine with multiple dials and levers called the stepped reckoner. Designed to perform multiplication with repeated additions and division by repeated subtractions, the reckoner was hard to use because it didn’t automatically perform carry operations; that is, adding 1 to 999 did not produce 1,000 in a single operation. Worse, the machine had a design flaw—a bug—that prevented it from working properly. Leibniz built only two of them.

More than 135 years later, Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar left his position as inspector of supply for the French army and started an insurance company. Frustrated by the need to perform manual arithmetic, Thomas designed a machine to help with math. Thomas’s arithmometer used Leibniz’s mechanism, now called a Leibniz wheel, but combined it with other gears, cogs, and sliding levers to create a machine that could reliably add and subtract numbers up to three digits, and multiply and divide as well. Thomas patented the machine, but his business partners at the insurance firm were not interested in commercializing it.

Twenty years later, Thomas once again turned his attention to the arithmometer. He demonstrated a version at the 1844 French national exhibition and entered competitions again in 1849 and 1851. By 1851, he had simplified the machine’s operation and extended its capabilities, giving it six sliders for setting numbers and 10 dials for display results. Aided by three decades’ advance in manufacturing technology, Thomas was able to mass-produce his device. By the time of his death, his company had sold more than a thousand of the machines—the first practical calculator that could be used in an office setting—and Thomas was recognized for his genius in creating it. The size of the arithmometer was approximately 7 inches (18 centimeters) wide by 6 inches (15 centimeters) tall.”

“This Thomas Arithmometer can multiply two 6-digit decimal numbers to produce a 12-digit number. It can also divide.”

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## Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Gold-Bug” – 1843 A.D.

1843

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Gold-Bug”

Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849)

“It was not a stunning cryptographic breakthrough or a spectacular demonstration of mathematical wizardry that helped to popularize secret writing and ciphers among the 19th-century American public. It was traditional storytelling by master of macabre Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe loved puzzles and ciphers and went to great lengths to write about them during his time as a magazine editor and literary author. The best known of these is a short story called “The Gold-Bug,” which follows a man named William Legrand who is bitten by a gold-colored bug and is convinced that it has a crucial role to play in restoring his fortune. Legrand and his associates embark on an adventure to find buried treasure that involves cryptograms, invisible ink, and the bug, which must be dropped through the left eye of a skull to unlock the overall solution.

The story was incredibly popular and is credited with inspiring Robert Louis Stevenson to write Treasure Island (1883). “The Gold-Bug” also captured the imagination of a young William F. Friedman, who went on to become a self-taught cryptographer, trained two generations of cryptanalysts (one for each world war), and became the US National Security Agency’s first chief cryptologist in 1952.

Poe once stated, in an 1841 letter to Frederick W. Thomas, “Nothing intelligible can be written which, with time, I cannot decipher.” While an editor at Graham’s Magazine, Poe wrote an article titled “A Few Words on Secret Writing” in which he offered a free subscription to any reader who could send him a cipher that he could not break. He claimed to have solved 100 submissions and then finished the contest by publishing two ciphers that were sent into the magazine by Mr. W. B. Tyler. Suspicion swirled that Tyler was really Poe himself.

Poe’s use of cryptography and puzzles in his editorial and literary work is symbolic of a practical challenge that ordinary people had during this time—there were few options for securely communicating private information. This was especially a problem for sending sensitive information by the newly invented telegraph, because by its very nature, a message sent by wire had to pass through many hands—being keyed, transcribed, and ultimately delivered—before reaching its intended destination.”

“An 1849 daguerreotype of American author Edgar Allan Poe. Poe helped popularize ciphers and secret writing in the 19th century.”

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## Fax Machine Patented – 1843 A.D.

1843

Fax Machine Patented

Alexander Bain (1811–1877), Giovanni Caselli (1815–1891)

“Before the telephone, before radio, there was the fax machine. It wasn’t the fax machine of the 1990s — the machine that transmitted information over ordinary phone lines — but rather a machine comprising of a pair of synchronized pendulums connected to each other over distance by an electrified wire.

Alexander Bain was a Scottish clockmaker with an interest in both electricity and invention. In 1843, he built an “electric printing telegraph” that used a pair of precisely timed pendulums, one configured to function like a scanner, the other to function as a remote printer. A message scanned by the first pendulum would print out at the second.

The scanning pendulum had an arm that moved back and forth across a metal plate holding raised metal printers type. After each swing, the plate advanced in the perpendicular direction. Thus, the arm scanned a path of parallel horizontal lines across the type. When a small contact on the arm swept over part of a letter, a circuit would be completed and an electric current would flow down the wire to the remote system, where the synchronized pendulum was scanning horizontal lines over a piece of chemically treated paper. When electricity flowed, the paper under the second pendulum would change color.

Although Bain’s system worked, he ended up in disputes with both Charles Wheatstone (1802–1875) and Samuel Morse (1791–1872). Bain died in poverty in 1877.

Italian inventor Giovanni Caselli improved on Bain’s basic idea with a more compact device called a pantelegraph, which transmitted a message written with insulating ink on a metal plate over a set of wires. Commercial operation of the pantelegraph began in 1865 between Paris and Lyon, mostly to verify signatures on banking instructions.

The discovery that the element selenium was also a photoconductor meant that its electrical resistance changed with light, making it possible to send photographic images. This was put to use in 1907 with a “wanted” poster that was sent from Paris to London help catch a jewel thief. Soon newspapers were routinely printing photos that had been sent by wire. In 1920, the Bartlane cable picture transmission system routinely sent digitized newspaper photographs from London to New York, taking three hours to transmit each photograph.”

Alexander Bain’s “electric printing telegraph” paved the way for later fax machines, such as this 1960 machine by Alexander Muirhead.”

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## Ada Lovelace Writes a Computer Program – 1843 A.D.

1843

Ada Lovelace Writes a Computer Program

“What do you get when you combine a scientifically minded, logical mother with a free-spirited, poetically gifted father? You get Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace, better known as Ada Lovelace—a British woman of the Industrial Age who used her unusual background and lineage to contribute to the cutting-edge technology of her day: the steam-powered Babbage difference engine.

Her mother was Lady Anne Isabella Milbanke Byron (1792–1860), and her father was the famous poet and notorious philanderer, Lord Byron (1788–1824). Lady Anne kicked Lord Byron out of the house when Ada was just five weeks old; Ada never met him. Determined to keep any trace of Lord Byron out of Ada’s life, she committed her daughter to a rigorous education in mathematics and science. Private tutors filled Ada’s days, including the Scottish science writer Mary Somerville, who introduced Ada to Charles Babbage at a dinner party.

At the party, Babbage unveiled a small prototype of his difference engine. Ada was captivated and wanted to know details of how it worked. That conversation was the first of many, which eventually led Babbage to show Ada the blueprints for his follow-up invention, the analytical engine. With her curious, creative mind and mature understanding of mathematics, she was commissioned to translate from French (at the time, a primary language of science) the lecture notes of Italian statesman Luigi Menabrea (1809–1896), who attended a talk Babbage gave on the analytical engine, and to add notes and ideas of her own. This she published in Scientific Memoirs, an early science journal, in 1843.

In that article appears Ada’s algorithm and detailed instructions for making Babbage’s machine compute Bernoulli numbers. This is generally regarded as one of the first published computer programs.

In recognition of her talents and influence on computer science, in 1979 the US Department of Defense named the Ada computer language after her.”