The Millionaire Calculator

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Millionaire Calculator built by Egli around 1910

The Millionaire calculator was the first commercially successful mechanical calculator that could perform a direct multiplication. It was in production from 1893 to 1935 with a total of about five thousand machines manufactured.[1][2]


Principle of calculation machine with progressive transmission of tens was invented by Chebyshev and demonstrated on World's fair 1878 in Paris. In 1881 Chebyshev demonstrated the model of calculation machine with automatic multiplication but did not take out a patent for it.

First patented multiplying machines was due to Edmund Barbour[3] (1872), Ramón Verea[4] (1878) and Léon Bollée (1889).[5] Bollée machine could be considered the direct ancestor of Millionaire.

Designed by Otto Steiger, a Swiss engineer, Millionaire was first patented in Germany in 1892. Patents were issued in France, Switzerland, Canada and the USA in 1893. The production started in 1893. Since 1899, until 1935 it was handled by Hans W. Egli of Zürich. During this long life, 4,655 "Millionaire" machines was sold.[6]


All mechanical calculators commercialized prior to the Millionaire, like the arithmometer, the Odhner arithmometer or the comptometer were simple adding machines; they implemented multiplication by continued addition under operator control. In 1889, Léon Bollée, in France, invented a machine that required only one turn of the crank handle to multiply the number entered on the sliders by a multiplier number. This was accomplished by creating a mechanical representation of the multiplication table which could be read and used by the machine. The manufacturing cost of Bollée's machine was too high and the production was discontinued after a few units. The Millionaire was built with the same target of direct mechanical multiplication in mind. [7]

In first decades of 20th century two other machines with direct multiplication were produced: the Moon-Hopkins[8] and Kuhrt-US.[9] These two companies was then taken over by Burroughs and Brunsviga. These machines filled quite a different niche from the Millionaire. They were book-keeping machines with printing features, and were too unwieldy to perform divisions and complex computations. The Millionaire, however, was better suited for technical computations.

This machine was very big and heavy and occupied an entire desk. Its size made it awkward to operate.

It was commercialized as "The Millionaire" in English speaking countries, "La Millionnaire" in French and "Millionär" in German speaking countries.

Desktop Mechanical Calculators in production during the 19th century


  1. ^ De Brabandere, L: Calculus, page 166, Mardaga, 1995
  2. ^ IBM historical archives
  3. ^ Barbour machine on History of Computer website
  4. ^ Verea machine on History of Computer website
  5. ^ Bollée machine on History of Computer website
  6. ^ These data comes from IBM Computer Museum, but a Millionaire with SN 6455 exists
  7. ^ Martin, E: The Calculating Machines, page 119, Charles Babbage Institute, 1992
  8. ^ Burroughs-Moon-Hopkins on Rechnerlexikon
  9. ^ Kuhrt-US on Rechenmaschinen lllustrated

External links[edit]