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Who Really Invented the Calculator?

Discover the fascinating history of the calculator and who truly deserves credit for its invention!

Who Really Invented the Calculator?

Who First Invented Calculator

Calculating devices have been around for centuries, with ancient civilizations using tools like abacuses to aid in mathematical calculations. However, it wasn't until the 17th century that the first mechanical calculators were invented.

Ancient Calculating Devices

The use of calculating devices can be traced back to ancient times with the development of the abacus. This device is believed to have originated in Babylonia around 2400 BCE and was used by early mathematicians to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The Greek philosopher Pythagoras also used the abacus in the 6th century BCE, and it remained the primary calculating tool until the invention of mechanical calculators.

One of the earliest examples of a more complex calculating machine is the Antikythera mechanism, discovered in the Aegean Sea in 1901. This device was believed to have been made around 150-100 BCE and was capable of predicting astronomical positions and eclipses.

First Mechanical Calculators

The first mechanical calculators were introduced in the 17th century, with the most prominent being the Pascaline and Leibniz machine. Blaise Pascal invented the Pascaline in 1642, which was a hand-cranked mechanical calculator capable of performing addition and subtraction. The Leibniz machine, developed by German polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in 1673, was capable of multiplication and division as well as addition and subtraction. Both of these machines used the mechanical gears and dials to perform calculations.

Other mechanical calculators were developed throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, including the Difference Engine by Charles Babbage, which was designed to compute mathematical tables using decimal numbers. Although this device was never completed during Babbage's lifetime, it was later built according to his plans and proved to be functional.

Invention of Electronic Calculators

The invention of electronic calculators in the mid-20th century changed the landscape of computing and made calculations faster and more accurate. The first electronic calculator, the ANITA Mark VII, was introduced in 1961 by the Bell Punch Company and used vacuum tubes to perform calculations.

However, it wasn't until the introduction of the first solid-state electronic calculator, the Texas Instruments’ Cal-Tech, in 1967, that they became widely available to the public. This was followed by the Hewlett-Packard HP-9100A, which was the first scientific calculator to use reverse Polish notation (RPN) and was a huge success among engineers and scientists.

With the advent of microprocessors in the early 1970s, calculators became more powerful and versatile. This led to the development of graphing calculators, which are capable of displaying graphs and performing advanced mathematical functions.

Today, calculators are ubiquitous and are found in everything from smartphones to specialized scientific and financial calculators. They have revolutionized the way we perform calculations and have made complex mathematical operations accessible to everyone.


Calculating devices have come a long way since the days of the abacus. From the mechanical calculators of the 17th century to the electronic calculators of today, they have revolutionized the field of computing and made calculations faster, more accurate, and more accessible than ever before. Who knows what the future holds for this incredible technology?

Controversies Surrounding Calculator Inventions

Calculators have come a long way since their inception centuries ago. As technology advances, the calibre and accuracy of calculators have dramatically improved. But who should get the credit for inventing them? Over time, there have been several claims to the invention of the calculator, leading to controversies. Here are some of the most discussed theories:

The Jacquard Loom Connection

The Jacquard Loom, which was invented by Joseph-Marie Jacquard in 1801, was a revolutionary device that used punched cards to weave intricate patterns. Some theorists claim that this device was also a precursor to the mechanical calculator. The punched cards held instructions and data, which were then processed and used to perform mathematical calculations. Thus, the basis of modern computing and calculating was created. However, there is no concrete proof that Jacquard's loom was directly linked to the invention of the calculator, but it is a widely speculated theory.

The Schickard Controversy

Wilhelm Schickard was a German mathematician and inventor who lived from 1592 to 1635. Some people argue that he invented the first-ever mechanical calculator before Pascal and Leibniz. His device, called the 'calculating clock,' used a set of Napier's rods to perform multiplication and division. In 1623, Schickard sent a letter to a colleague explaining how his calculator worked. Unfortunately, the letter, along with Schickard's calculator, was lost in a fire, so there is no tangible evidence to prove his invention. Some experts believe that Pascal and Leibniz may have been influenced by Schickard's work.

Other Claims to Invention

Aside from Schickard's supposed invention, there have been several other claims to the invention of the calculator. Samuel Morland created a device called the 'Arithmetick Clock' in 1666, which was used to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Athanasius Kircher created an adding machine in the mid-1600s, which used balls that were dropped onto separate tracks to perform calculations. Although some of these machines are functional, they were not widely used or recognized as significant at the time.

In conclusion, the invention of the calculator is a multi-faceted and complicated topic. While Pascal and Leibniz are the most recognized inventors of the calculator, other inventors made similar calculations and machines before them. Although most of these inventors were not credited for their work, their inventions played a critical role in creating the sophisticated calculators that we have today. These controversies prove that innovation and progress happen through a gradual and collaborative process of testing, observation, and improvement.

Impact and Importance of the Calculator

Increased Efficiency and Productivity

The calculator, since its inception, has had a remarkable impact on mathematics and, by extension, other fields that require calculations. Prior to its invention, traditional methods of calculation were tedious and time-consuming. The introduction of calculators has revolutionized the way we approach mathematical problems. With the calculator, scientists and researchers can now solve complex equations, analyze data, and conduct experiments with relative ease.

In the industrial and business sectors, calculators have proven to be an indispensable tool. With the emergence of complex financial equations, accountants, bankers, and financiers can now make complex calculations and decisions with confidence and accuracy. The calculator has undoubtedly increased efficiency and productivity in all fields that require calculations.

Technological Advancements and Innovations

The invention of the calculator has not only enhanced efficiency in different fields but also led to further technological advancements and innovations. Calculators have laid the groundwork for the development of computers and smartphones. Today, smartphones have features that incorporate scientific and graphing calculators, and they are readily available to most individuals. Computers and laptops have also become an even more accessible resource for complex equations and data analysis, which is essential in scientific research and development.

Without the creation of calculators, it would have taken an extended period to accomplish these technological feats. Hence, it is no overstatement to say that it plays a pivotal role in technological advancements and innovations over the years. The calculator is a prime example of how innovative ideas can beget improved and innovative solutions that transcend beyond the initial invention.

Accessibility to Mathematics and Science

The calculator has undoubtedly made mathematics and science more accessible to individuals from all walks of life. In the past, mathematics and science were viewed as being exclusively for the select few gifted in those subjects. With the invention of the calculator, the pursuit of careers and activities involving calculations has significantly increased. Individuals can now more confidently take on challenging mathematical and scientific tasks, knowing that they have the tools to help them solve complex problems.

Moreover, calculators have become an essential tool in the classroom. Educators now have the means to introduce mathematics and science, which were once feared and avoided by many students, in simpler terms. The calculator has made these subjects more engaging and approachable, allowing students to get creative and come up with more innovative solutions to mathematical problems.


The invention of the calculator has had far-reaching implications that extend beyond just simple calculations. It has changed the way we approach mathematics, research, and other fields that require calculations. The calculator has increased efficiency and productivity, leading to further technological advancements and innovations. With accessibility to mathematics and science becoming increasingly more available, society today owes a great deal to the visionary who invented the calculator.

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