# Pinwheel calculator

A pinwheel calculator is a class of mechanical calculator described as early as 1685, and popular in the 19th and 20th century, calculating via wheels whose number of teeth were adjustable. These wheels, also called pinwheels, could be set by using a side lever which could expose anywhere from 0 to 9 teeth, and therefore when coupled to a counter they could, at each rotation, add a number from 0 to 9 to the result. By linking these wheels with carry mechanisms a new kind of calculator engine was invented. Turn the wheels one way and one performs an addition, the other way a subtraction.

As part of a redesign of the arithmometer, they reduced by an order of magnitude the cost and the size of mechanical calculators on which one could easily do the four basic operations (add, subtract, multiply and divide).

Pinwheel calculators became extremely popular with the success of Thomas' Arithmometer (manufactured 1850s) and Odhner Arithmometer (manufactured 1890s).

## History This drawing from Leibniz reads in Latin and French: Adjustable teeth of a multiplication wheel

## Operation

"The operation of machines of this type was accomplished by means of pulling levers or knobs to set up the desired number. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division were accomplished by means of revolving drums. For addition they revolved in one direction, and for subtraction the direction was reversed. For multiplication the revolutions were repeated in the same direction as for addition, and for division they were repeated in the same direction as for subtraction. Two sets of dials provided a means of reading totals. In one the accumulation of totals appeared; in the other, there appeared the figure which was added, subtracted, multiplied, or divided." (The Office Appliance Manual, p. 88)