When the word calculator entered English in the late 14th century, it referred to a mathematician or person who calculated or tabulated things. The word calculator derived from the Latin word of the same spelling, from the past participle of calculare, meaning to reckon or compute. The Latin word calculare had its own interesting derivation, coming from the diminutive of calx, as calculus, meaning a pebble or counting stone as it is supposed that early Roman mathematicians and accountants used pebbles to aid in large calculations. It wasn’t until 1784 that word was used to denote a mechanical contraption to count or perform math and wasn’t applied to an electronic device until June 1946, when a Scientific American headline announced “Electronic calculator uses 18,000 tubes to solve complex problems.”
French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal was one of the first to create one of these machines, illustrated above, in 1642, which became known briefly as a pascaline. In 1820, French inventor Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar re-created something like a cross between Pascal’s machine and Gottfried Leibniz’s evolution of that machine, which he called the arithmometer.
Blaise Pascal was born on this day, June 19, 1623-you can use your calculator, as I did, to calculate that was 391 years ago. Bonne anniversaire, Blaise!