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Abacus

Sectors

Logarithmic Devices

Slide Rules

Babbage & Jacquard

Mechanical Devices

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Early sectors, c. 1800
Credit: Computer History Museum

Pre-Computing

Computers have been in widespread use for only the last 30 years, but many of the underlying concepts date back to the earliest cultures. Counting and basic arithmetic have been important human activities for thousands of years. The devices shown here are examples of early tools to simplify calculation. They range from simple successful inventions like the thirteenth-century abacus to unsuccessful industrial-age mechanical dreams like Charles Babbage’s engines.

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