The Arithmometer was the first commercially successful mechanical calculator patented
Patented in France by Thomas de Colmar in 1820, the Arithmometer or Arithmomètre was the first commercially successful mechanical calculator. Its sturdy design gave it a strong reputation of reliability and accuracy and made it a key player in the gradual move from human computers to calculating machines that took place during the second half of the 19th century.
Its production debut of 1851 launched the mechanical calculator industry which ultimately built millions of machines well into the 1970s. For almost thirty years, from 1851 to 1878, the Arithmometer was the only mechanical calculator in commercial production and it was sold all over the world. With its first two clone makers, Burkhardt (Germany, 1878) and Layton (UK, 1883), it was the only type of mechanical calculator commercialized from 1878 to 1887 worldwide.
The manufacturing was handled by Thomas de Colmar himself until his death, then by his son and later his grand-son and finally by his engineer, Louis Payen and ultimately his widow, Veuve L. Payen. Manufacturing started in 1851 and ended around 1914. There were about 5,000 machines built during these years, 40% of the production was sold in France and the rest was exported. The genuine Arithmometer was manufactured as Thomas de Colmar from 1820 until 1887, it then became L. Payen until 1907 and finally Veuve L. Payen until the manufacturing operation ended around 1914. Alphonse Darras liquidated the business around 1915.
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