Section II. MACHINE-ASSISTED MANUAL PHASE
THE TECHNOLOGY GAP
a. Introduction. By the 17th century, significant progress in record keeping
techniques had been achieved. The ancient Greeks had invented record audits; the
Romans, banking systems and budgets; the medieval Florentines, Genoans, and
Venetians of Italy, double bookkeeping entries. Despite these breakthroughs, manual
recording remained essentially a tedious task performed by overworked clerks. There
was a real technology gap. Available methods had not kept pace with population
growth and the rapid increase in information. Tax collection, census taking,
engineering, and astronomy were just a few of the areas that would have benefited from
machine-assisted recording and computing devices at the time.
b. Shickard's Digital Calculating Clock (1623). Efforts to create mechanical
computing aids date as far back as the 17th century. Though Blaise Pascal is
commonly credited with the first digital calculator, it is, in fact, Wilhelm Schickard, a
German astronomer, who actually holds this distinction. Schickard invented the first
mechanical calculator that could add, subtract, multiply, and divide. He developed it as
an aid to astronomers who, until then, had to do lengthy and tedious computations to
develop their mathematical tables. (Shickard is little known because his work was
destroyed during the Thirty Year's War. It was not recovered until 1957, when his
correspondence with Johannes Kepler, the astronomer, was found).
digital: the representation of data for transmission by discrete signals.
digital calculator: a machine, like the abacus or adding machine, that
essentially does counting operations.
Figure 1-9. Shickard's digital calculating clock was the first mechanical calculator.