Before becoming the rectangular, digital device we know them as today, the calculator took on many different mechanical forms during the early 20th century. Josef Benedikt Pallweber’s 1903 invention — the Adix adding machine — is one such example of this. Pallweber’s invention might look strange to us today from our modern perspective, but there’s no denying the history of the Adix adding machine makes it clear that Pallweber’s invention was one of the most historically significant of its time. Let’s break down all there is to know about Pallweber’s Adix adding machine to see exactly what it is about the device that made it such a groundbreaking invention.
Three Facts about the Adix Adding Machine
- Improved versions of the device were manufactured under other names, such as the Diera in 1911 and the Kuli in 1913.
- According to the device’s patents, it appears that the Adix’s key selling point was that it was noiseless.
- After leaving the Adix Company in 1908, Adix inventor Josef Benedikt Pallweber established a new company for technical inventions where he patented an “alarm device for portable cassettes and similar containers” for use in alarmed portable cash boxes.
Adix Adding Machine History
Adix adding machine inventor Josef Benedikt Pallweber was born on February 7th, 1858, in Schörfling am Attersee bei Vöcklabruck, a market town in Upper Austria. Pallweber worked as a watchmaker in Salzburg until 1886, when he then moved to Mannheim, Germany. There, on August 16th, 1886, he married Lina Mack (née Magdalena). Around 1890, the couple moved to Furtwangen.
- Josef Benedikt Pallweber and Adolf Bordt
- Original Use
- Mechanical adding calculator
While in Furtwangen, Pallweber worked at the Frankfurter Fabrik Mechanischer Apparate in Frankfurt from the middle of the 1890s until approximately 1902. While there, he worked on the construction of a “clock with convertible digits,” a cash register, and a full-keyboard adding machine, among other things.
In 1903, the Adix Company Pallweber & Bordt of Mannheim, Germany was born. Entered into the commercial register in October to produce calculating machines, the company’s sole shareholders and inventors were the titular Pallweber and Adolf Bordt. Not long after the establishment of the Adix Company, the Adix adding machine was born. First patented in 1904, the Adix adding machine would remain in production for the next 26 years until 1930.
On October 1, 1908, Pallweber left the company, and Bordt became sole proprietor. When Bordt took over, he continued to make improvements to the Adix while Pallweber went off to establish a new company for himself and his new invention: alarmed container devices.
Adix Adding Machine: How It Worked
The Adix was a click-wheel column adder with nine keys. Its overall dimensions were 15 cm x 10 cm x 3 cm, and it weighed in at just half a kilogram. It was sold in a grained leather brown wooden box.
Uniquely enough, the whole of the Adix adding machine’s mechanism was exposed so that the operator could see how the key depression was transmitted to the counting mechanism — gears and all. For this reason, the look of the little machine is practically steampunk by today’s aesthetic standards.
Adding with the Adix adding machine occurred through key depression. Interestingly, the machine did not permit the addition of whole amounts — it merely permitted the addition of columns of individual digits. As such, with only three columns, numbers on the Adix adding machine could not exceed a total sum of 999. If the calculation in one column had been completed, then the operator had to make a note of the last digit and register the carryover through the keys themselves.
As far as looks were concerned, the Adix adding machine displayed the company’s name written in Gothic script on the inside lid of the brown wooden box and bore the word “Mannheim” underneath — the city where the device was manufactured, in other words. The small mechanical calculator consisted of 122 parts and, for the first time in a computing machine, used parts made of aluminum. Believe it or not, this was just one of many historically significant things about the Adix adding machine.
Adix Adding Machine: Historical Significance
The Adix adding machine was historically significant for several major reasons. For starters, the device had an exposed mechanism, forgoing the trouble of trying to hide what made the device work in favor of simply showing users what was going on under the hood (so to speak). Beyond this significant aesthetic design choice, the Adix adding machine also made history for its reliance on an early version of the keyboard we know and use today. Beyond this, the Adix adding machine was also significant for its small size. It might not have been capable of doing the kind of complicated math we’ve come to expect from calculators today, but for a very early mechanical calculator, the Adix adding machine was still a lot faster, a lot more accurate, and a lot more convenient than doing addition by hand.