Guess the purpose of this patent

What’s this for? Circa 1878:


15 Responses

  1. Counting words!

  2. Isn’t that the automatron that could write a letter?

  3. I’m going with counting *characters* on the down-stroke.

  4. It is clearly a counter (I had a similar counter as a kid, made in plastic and not pencil mounted). It is probably for counting something (inventory, people, …) while also taking notes with the pencil. I doubt that it is for counting the writing per se.

    • It is indeed a counter, but there’s something unusual about it (other than it being attached to a pencil).

      • The only thing about this device that I think is unusual is the fact that there is no 1’s place. Just 10, 100, and 1000. Also the order of the place-values is reversed from their usual right-to-left orientation. The latter seems more like a design simplicity issue, but the absence of a 1’s place is strange. Why would the designer explicitly be thinking you’d be counting in tens and not ones with this thing?

  5. It counts time. Amazing.

  6. As others have said, it’s clearly a counter.

    I think the key is that the button is placed so that applying downward pressure on the pencil increments the counter.

    For this reason I think the purpose of this invention is to count tally marks. Every time you make a tally mark, you push down with your index finger on the button and increment the counter.

  7. It counts by 10s rather than by 1s (that is, the low order digit, which is on the left, not the right) is labeled 10. The picture does not provide enough information to tell whether it is counting up or down (we’d need to see the order of the digits on the wheels).

    It looks like a perfectly ordinary design for mechanical counter, so I’m not seeing anything to get excited about—you’ll have to tell us what is so special.

  8. Just to summarize mrbgreen & gasstationwithoutpumps we have:

    a.) a counter attached to a pencil that advances by pushing a button
    b.) the place values are reversed from left to right rather than right to left
    c.) the 1s place is missing

    I’ll let this hang for only another day or so before I give it away.

  9. The labels h, h’, and h^a are kind of odd. Also, from Fig 3 it would appear that the left gear activates the central gear once every 10 clicks which simultaneously activates the one on the right!

    I think maybe it was used for writing encrypted messages.

    • If you look more closely at Fig 3, you can see that one of the pins on gear a (the central gear) is longer than the others (it happens to be the one engaged with the rightmost gear in the picture), the shorter pins will not advance the right gear at all.

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