The last time you saw an Underwood typewriter with its lovely round keys, did you want to take it home? Do you longingly play with your Picket slide rule? My lunch time conversation at the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN) Winter Conference taught me about two new tools to look for: A wire-based multi-sorter (and specially punched cards) and an electromechanical square root calculator (updated image to show the correct one - Thank you to Hermann Viets, President of the Milwaukee School of Engineering).

I think seeing the simplicity and the complexity of these two devices has value across many dimensions. The punch cards are a wonderful reminder of even how simple, but laborious, tasks had elegant solutions that look nothing like our behavior today. Think of how you sort your notes via Evernote or other tools. Would you have had the patience to do the work you do today with only these historic tools?



Prior post on Babbage Difference Engine