Modern world was designed with slide rule and mechanical calculator
Still the youth ignore these instruments that anticipated our technology. I think it's useless to teach math without teaching how calculations were made in the past.
With my free e-book "Nicola Marras: Was There Life Before Computer?" the teachers can easily illustrate the old computing systems.
To preserve the memory of the slide rule, the pascaline and the mechanical calculator, I organize international exhibitions and conferences, where the ancient instruments could be tested by the public.
To better understand the old technology I had also added exhibits on the history of communications and pre-GPS navigation.
All programs still available in Italian and English.
The history of calculation instruments
The modern computer has been built on these ancient instruments, conceived in the 17th century, that seemed irreplaceable.
Earth, 1800: the inventor Joshua Routledge and his slide rule
Moon, 1969: the astronaut Buzz Aldrin and his slide rule
It was Leibniz's dream come true:
"It is unworthy of excellent men to lose hours like
No invention ever made such a rapid impact. The automobile took more than twenty to establish itself. Electronics instead instantly defeated the competition. An unprecedented revolution.
Mechanical calculator: very similar the models of 1645 and 1965
However, the transition was not painless because the ancient computers were used in every field. People had little faith in the new "electronic slide rule" and the factories inserted the old instrument on the back, for the sake of safety.
Faber TR3 calculator with "safety" sliderule on the back, 1975
By now, however, the new technologies required computing power: shortly after Sharp presented the first mini computer, almost pocket-sized. The PC era was beginning.
Sharp PC 1500 programmable computer with printer, 1982
A little investigation revealed to me that, for many students, the result of 2 + 3 x 4 is 20, not 14! With the slide rule, however, the pupils immediately recognize the order of the operations. The pascaline helps the little ones to easily understand addition and carry-over.
Was there life before computer? educational project has
Old Calculators & Democracy
Today people punch numbers into a calculator and expect the calculator to provide the correct answer, the Art of Numeracy is no longer
practiced and the world before computers almost forgotten.
The operation that appears on the display is correct?
The electronic aids should not blindly be trusted. We need to understand and criticize what we do. Software could be buggy and the
computer results have to be critically reviewed. In the past, with the old calculating devices, the operators were always aware of
their actions and used to check the results.
We'll believe anythings (if it lets us be lazy ...) @ Andy Singer
Teaching the traditional calculating instruments as a school of democracy may seem an overstatement, but nobody can be a free citizen
if unaware of what he does or willing to discuss it.
Scientific thinking and independence of ideas are not a natural product of intelligence, they must be cultivated steadily. A simple lesson about traditional calculation may help. A rational mind produces better decisions, better citizens and a better world.
"Old Calculators & Democracy" educational project has
Exhibits and didactic aids
Even the little ones take an active interest:
Best staff best show!
New Projects - 2022
Today it seems appropriate to remember how Art and Science are connected and complementary: a fact that, 500 years after Leonardo's death, still seems to be ignored.
Science and Art are not opposed was in fact the opinion of Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, painter and founder of the National Academy of Design in New York. He claimed that his scientific prowess originated from the practice of the arts and knowledge of the classical world.
He wanted to connect the world with 'a network that can, in real time, communicate everything that happens everywhere, transforming the whole planet into a small village'. A painting by him reveals his predictions: thanks to the network, all art can be enjoyed in one place.
1833, Samuel "Morse Gallery of the Louvre" - interactive version
In the 1800s, technology transformed the world and it was thought that inventors and scientists were inspired by God to spread peace and prosperity, creating a modernity based on the aesthetic and moral principles of the classical world.
1860 - Goddess Minerva with Benjamin Franklin, Robert Fulton and Samuel Morse
This painting by John Gast illustrates well how it went instead: Columbia, the personification of the USA, relentlessly advances, illuminating the world with technology, but destroying cultures, nature, traditions and diversity.
1872 - Columbia: "one technology and one single thought"
It is also important to clarify the true relationships between the internet and the end user, as well as the discrepancy between perception and reality of things.
In 1800 it was a common belief that information would favor critical development, extinguishing the populisms that lurk in ignorance and credulity.
The program is being finalized, but the extreme instability of the international situation makes it difficult to predict its viability.
About me and this site
As obvious, I carry out my project in Italy and and this translation is much smaller than the original. However, here you will find a summary of my book on the history of the calculating instruments and all my educational material. My works are provided under the CC License "BY-NC-SA 3.0".
The contents were produced by myself, but there is also material owned by third parties or
taken in the internet, apparently of public domain. In general I applied for authorization to use, which
unfortunately is not always possible. In any case is always shown on the author's name and a link to his
personal website: if the name of the owner is not present must be considered the author as unknown to me.
© 2004 - 2022 Nicola Marras