Curta calculator

 Wikipedia Commons 5 5C Curta01
Very cool Curta calculator via jwz.

The Curta was a small, hand-cranked mechanical calculator introduced in 1948. It had an extremely compact design, a small cylinder that fit in the palm of the hand. It could be used to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and, with more difficulty, square roots and other operations. The Curta’s design is a descendant of Gottfried Leibniz’s Stepped Reckoner and Thomas’s Arithmometer, accumulating values on cogs, which are added or complemented by a stepped drum mechanism.

Ok – who has one or has used one?

24 thoughts on “Curta calculator

  1. Like the mid-to-late 60’s, This was a favourite tool of the road rally crowd. By the time I was old enough to acquire one, they were out of production.

  2. This make a minor cameo in William Gibson’s novel Pattern Recognition… one of the characters is a collector.

  3. A family member of mine owns one. He has had it since college. He’s the original owner. It sat in his office his entire career. A couple years ago he saw an article like this one about how rare they were and promptly took it off the shelf and placed it in a big safe.
    I have played with it since I was a kid. When you turn the crank you can feel tons of whirling and spinning inside. It’s heavy for its size. When I saw Jurasic Park the first time and the lawyer character says “Is that heavy? Then it is expensive,put it down.” I immediately thought of the Curta. With all my spinning and one-on-one tutorials, I never actually knew how to do anything but add simple numbers. I recently saw an online tutorial that made it clear just how powerful and mechanically brilliant these things actually are.
    And no, the owner is not interested in selling it. But I am glad to see these devices are finally getting some contemporary recognition.

  4. Oh man, I’ve wanted one of those for years! They regularly show up on eBay, but usually got for $1,000+ (though a guy I know found one at a yard sale for ten bucks once).

    A few years back I did a design appreciation of the Curta for the public radio art program Studio360. If you’re interested, you can hear it online (Real format) at http://www.studio360.org/yore/show101803.html .

  5. Another thing to add to my list of desirable, fantastic things I will probably never own including a Nagra SN miniature reel to reel recorder, a Minox BL camera and an original Enigma machine :)

  6. …and I knew that my chances of ever getting one totally disappeared when I saw it in “Pattern Recognition” :-) I think Simon and I have the same wish list!

  7. I just purchased one and it arrived today. Still trying to figure out how to use it and surfing the web about it, thats how I stumbled ur blog.

  8. I own a Mark I and a Mark II. Pattern Recognition piqued my interest, but hearing the backstory of Curt Herzstark’s time in concentration camp and struggle to get it into production was what made me determined to own one.

    Most fun way imaginable to do mathematical calculations, but slow as hell ;)

    And I never, ever want to have to get it cleaned or overhauled. The insides are insanely complex. Though there are guys here and there who specialize in repairing them.

Comments are closed.

Tagged

current: @adafruit - previous: MAKE, popular science, hackaday, engadget, fallon, braincraft ... howtoons, 2600...

View more articles by Phillip Torrone