Italian Lira Pocket Counter-Calculator

Conta Spese Balzar, Early 20th Century

Since watches with complications are ‘smart machines’, then the same machine without the watch feature also deserves attention – especially when the machine is an early attempt at creating portable computing equipment.

This device is an early calculator, or rather, it is a simple counter for bank notes (lira and cents are indicated on the dial).

The user can press the buttons to add two-digit amounts to the nearest 10 cents.

Pressing the crown flips the 10 cents forward. The asterisk of cents when passing through 00, switches the first disc of the lira. That, respectively, switches the second lira disc when passing through 0.

There are two buttons on the sides of the case that are for adding units to the first and second lira discs.

For example, to add 37.5 lira and 16.8 lira – you need to set 37.5 on the dial, then press the left button once (10 lira), the right button 6 times (6 lira) and on the crown 8 times (80 cents). The sum will be 54.3 lira. Now another value can be added by pressing the corresponding buttons. When you pass 100, the counter will reset – at the time 100 lira was a significant amount, more than what would be needed to count.

A button for resetting to zero is not provided – the purpose of the device is to add up values, and it does this quite well. It is easy to add the numbers on it and get a result immediately.

The mechanism is taken out of the case, and the dial is removed. The inside of the device is quite simple – the numbered discs are fixed onto sprockets which are switched by spring-loaded levers displayed on the corresponding buttons.

The sprocket wheels are switched by pressing the corresponding buttons.

There is no processing of the mechanism as such. Everything works simply, inexpensively, and is purely functional. This is not a watch, so accuracy is pointless here – which is why the mechanics are so simple.

The body of the device is nickel-plated, which after polishing shines like a mirror. The glass cover is made from natural mineral glass; the dial and discs are metal with silver plating and painted inscriptions.

For all its simplicity, this device is very fun and interesting – a greeting from the early era of computing.

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