Get email productivity tips!  
  Home    Up Contact Legal Stuff  

          Black Gem

    Here is a Gem. Thatís its name: the Gem Adding Machine. Most of them were produced in a chrome finish that made them reminiscent of surgical or dental instruments; but since, as you may have  already gathered, I always look for the combination of aesthetics and function in old computing machinery, I made sure to find one of the less common Gem adders that have a black wrinkle paint finish, a color scheme much more pleasing to the eye. It has a seven-digit width, though I've seen ones with 5 and 9 as well. The Gem adding machine
Click photo to enlarge
    The Gem adder, or Golden Gem as it was sometimes labeled, is small, portable, and very nice to use. It can only add, but it does this extremely well: you insert a stylus in the chain at the right digit and slide it all the way down, and the result register at the top increments to add your digit; carry is handled automatically thanks to the internal gearing. This may seem trivial, but at the time there were countless small adders in use -- slide adders and the Locke Adder, for example -- that required you to handle the carry manually. It also has a clearing mechanism, which some of the others lack, and a nice folding support to prop it at the right angle. On top of which, it is simply well constructed:
you can sense the hefty feel of solid metal, and the mechanism just feels right as you slide the chains or rotate the reset knob.
    The Golden Gem was introduced by the Automatic Adding Machine Co., New York, in 1904. It was designed by Abraham Gancher, and the company's advertising in 1917 claims over 100,000 had been sold by that year. At that point they cost $10 each.
The Gem adding machine  The Gem adding machine - close up
Click a photo to enlarge
    From a communication by his granddaughter, Ms. Christina Oorebeek, I learned that Mr. Gancher was a Russian Jew who had fled the pogroms of approx. 1880 to come to America when he was 18 years old. The story in the family went that he'd arrived penniless in New York City and did very well with his inventions. He was also a small-handwriting specialist and had, apparently, procured himself a place in Ripley's Believe it or Not by writing the Bill of Rights on a postage stamp!

    Good job, Mr. Gancher! Today we have better calculating solutions, but had I been living in 1904, I would have bought your creation without hesitation!
Exhibit provenance:
    eBay, of course...

More info:
    A photo of the Gemís inner works is available at the Vintage Calculators Web Museum:

Back Index Next

Home | HOC | Fractals | Miscellany | About | Contact

Copyright © 2007 N. Zeldes. All rights reserved.