Freaks of Number

Fuller, Matthew. 2006. Freaks of Number. In: G. Cox and J. Krysa, eds. Data Browser 2: Engineering Culture: One 'The Author as (Digital) Producer'. New York: Autonomedia, p. 15. ISBN 1570271704 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

There is a very intriguing book from 1893, with a second edition in 1905. Written
by Maurice d’Ocagne, a Professor at the l’Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées, Le Calcul
Simplifié par les Procédés Mecaniques et Graphiques is subtitled ‘a history and
description of instruments and machines of calculation, tables, abacuses and
nomograms’. Much of the book is exactly that: a set of descriptions for increasing
the speed and accuracy of numerical calculation. The book opens with a standard
piece of puffery, noting the substantial importance to all branches of modern
science and industry of the art of calculation.
The text is notable for a number of things. First, it is perhaps one of the first
examples of software criticism. D’Ocagne makes developed comparative portraits
of each of the kinds of calculating machines and techniques available in 1905
(indeed the book is bang up to date, with several last minute addenda on new
machines). All the heroes of computation and their amazing gadgets are there:
Pascal, Babbage, Leibniz, Napier. But there also appears a set of more everyday
pieces of equipment, cash registers, arithmometres, and so on.

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Date Deposited:

12 Mar 2009 15:41

Last Modified:

19 Jun 2017 11:05


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