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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Calculating history

Swindon’s Museum of Computing proudly presents a limited-edition, gold-plated ‘Sinclair Sovereign’ calculator as the centrepiece of its current exhibition, ‘Calculator – from the abacus to the microchip’, which features a wealth of calculators, counting devices, and arithmetic aids. Its creator, Sir Clive Sinclair, was the guest of honour at the launch in March. The range of over 120 exhibits spans timeless counting tools such as abacuses, slide rules of every shape and type, comptometers, and other mechanical calculators including the Curta hand-cranked calculator used in rally car racing. Electronic models are represented from the earliest valve machines through transistorised desktop models up to the first integrated circuit devices. There are even wristwatch calculators from Sinclair and Pulsar. The gold-plated Sinclair calculator won a Design Council award when it was launched in 1977 and Sir Clive Sinclair’s legacy is very much in evidence with 18 of his calculators on show.

The exhibition is a fascinating glimpse into not only the technology, the variety of devices created, and the ingenuity creating them, but also how we use them. Stories from comptometer operators who trained for up to 15 weeks at the manufacturers’ schools are part of the displays, as is some of the fascinating advertising literature.

The exhibition continues until September. More about this fascinating museum is available at www.audw76.dsl.pipex.com/index.htm.