Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Adding it up

I'm going to start off this post by saying (for once) - thank goodness for the advancement of technology!  I know that in this blog I usually wax nostalgic about things from the past, like rotary phones and newspapers, but there is one contraption that I am so glad I never had to use:

The adding machine.

Oh, it looks mid-century awesome, but in reading these brochures?  That's about the only good thing about it!  The brochures/instruction manuals are really what we're going to be talking about today, but first - a little history behind the product.

According to Wikipedia, the modern adding machine was first manufactured by Burroughs (which, coincidentally, is the company that put out that many of these brochures).  The Wiki article was written by an Australian, hence the "A/pound" sign, but here are example instructions for a mid-20th century adding machine:

"Some "ten-key" machines had input of numbers as on a modern calculator -- 30.72 was input as "3", "0", "7", "2". These machines could subtract as well as add. Some could multiply and divide, although including these operations made the machine more complex. Those that could multiply, used a form of the old adding machine multiplication method. Using the previous example of multiplying A£34.72 by 102, the amount was keyed in, then the 2 key in the "multiplication" key column was pressed. The machine cycled twice, then tabulated the adding mechanism below the keyboard one column to the right. The number keys remained locked down on the keyboard. The user now pressed the multiplication "0" key which caused tabulation of the adding mechanism one more column to the right, but did not cycle the machine. Now the user pressed the multiplication "1" key. The machine cycled once. To see the total the user was required to press a "Total" key and the machine would print the result on a paper tape, release the locked down keys, reset the adding mechanism to zero and tabulate it back to its home position."

Got that?  Me neither.  In fact, I'll be honest - I didn't even read that paragraph in its entirety - I zoned out about halfway through.  :D  I worked in the finance department of our local newspaper for five years before I left to do my art full-time, and I would've failed miserably if this is what I had to work with. 

Which brings me (finally!) to the brochures!  Aren't they wonderful?  They make operation of these machines look SO easy!  I mean, if the office girl can use one, how hard can it be (sarcasm alert!!!)?  By the way, these all came from the Paper Flea Market and they may have a few left, if you're interested!

And of course, I LOVE using them in my artwork!  The bold colors, the striking graphics - they all work wonderfully for making a piece really POP.  Thank goodness that's the only use these brochures have anymore!

"Day at the Office" collage - available
on Etsy


  1. I hear ya Mel - my first ever job was as a Telex operator - Holy Toledo! I'll never be a complete luddite. J

  2. Jewels, will you laugh if I tell you that growing up, I thought Telex was one of the most exotic things I'd ever heard of? I had this idea that only rich people in Europe used it (due in large part to the fancy-schmancy ads in National Geographic that we had around the house in the 70s!)! :D

  3. I was the queen of the 10 key at one time - my fingers would just fly! I find using the numbers on top of the computer keyboard soooo slow now and I always fat-finger those little calculators.

  4. These are really nice works, Mel!! And you're so faithful at keeping your blog active (unlike, ahem, someone else I know!)

  5. Eileen, I am impressed by your 10-key prowess! I'm left-handed but have no strength in that hand. Forget manual typewriters, too! Thank you for your very nice comments on my work, too. :D

    P-E - how MARVELOUS! Thank you so much for posting the slide presentation! I had no idea that the Facit Man was a Swedish invention - very interesting! I think I have a new collection to build.... :D Thank you for viewing my blog. :D