Comptometers Part 1

Within minutes of each other we received two submission to the database for Comptometer operators, intrigued by this ‘new’ word we thought we’d investigate further.

Firstly the two submissions. The first from Eileen Butterly nee Mohan. Eileen worked as a comptometer operator in the wages department from 1956 until 1963. Married in 1962 with the name changed to Butterly and left to have a baby October 1963.

Minutes later Peter Lewis emailed through with details of his mother Irene Parsons – a Comptometer operator. Irene was at the company far earlier Peter thinks from around 1937 to 1937. He says she was involved with a trial to update the system but she beat the new fangled technology of the day. She managed to short out the electric supply to a large portion of the factory when a metal chair got earthed out in the office due to a flying lead to her machine got exposed!

Peter also sent a photo:

Comptometer Operators

Irene is seen here sat rear right, in the middle of the photo.

The comptometer was the first commercially successful key-driven mechanical calculator, patented in the USA by Dorr E. Felt in 1887.

A key-driven calculator is extremely fast because each key adds or subtracts its value to the accumulator as soon as it is pressed and a skilled operator can enter all of the digits of a number simultaneously, using as many fingers as required, making them sometimes faster to use than electronic calculators. Consequently, in specialized applications, comptometers remained in use in limited numbers into the early 1990s, but with the exception of museum pieces, they have all now been superseded by electronic calculators and computers.