It was unexpected how close the displayed artefacts are to our current research on tangible interaction. We had a very good guided tour by Nina Mertens, who gave us an interesting overview from counting tokens to calculation machines. Some of the exhibit we could even try out our selves.
I found the aspect of aesthetics in some of the calculation aids and machines quite fascinating. Especially the fact that some were so precious that they were not really used for calculating but more for showing off is a concept that is amazing. Similarly interesting was one artefact that was mainly built as a proof that calculation can be automated.
In the school museum I came across two very simple pen-based computing aids. The devices are very simple mechanical tools that help to do addition and subtraction. It was called ADDIATOR.
The utility is limited to addition and subtraction and it provides a very simple mechanism to deal with carry-over. If the number which is to be moved is white the calculation is without carry-over and one pulls it down. If the number is red then there will be a carry over one has to pull up and around the semi-circle (this is the mechanism for carry over). A carry over beyond the next position is displayed with a special sign and has to be resolved by moving the next position. The curator told me that he remembers people in shops used them and that people where very quick with them. It seems they have been popular till I was born.
Thinking of fuel prices one could imagine that this type of transportation may come again. It only requires energy for propulsion – lift is provided by the weight.