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The Invention of Numbers and Mechanical Counter Technology

Posted by Phillip Warwick

Apr 7, 2014 3:40:24 PM

Mechanical counters, now that’s a term synonymous with robust, long lasting and dependable counting and measuring instruments. About four thousand years ago one of the greatest inventions in history was created, comparable in importance to the wheel and the control of fire. This was the counting board- an arrangement of flat surfaces, lines, and small objects or tokens that gave man the ability to handle numbers.

count_boardNumbers are in fact an invention, and not a part of the natural world.Numbers were invented because people had to count and measure things. Fast forward several milleniums, and find yourself in a world where the need to count is even greater. To answer that need, Veeder-Root makes counting devices, and it has been interested in numbers and ways of counting for about as long as any corporation in the world.

Mechanical counters work on the old principle of “carrying over” that most of us learn early on in grade school. That is, when we reach a count of “9” (or “19”, or “29”, etc.), we “carry over” the “one” to the next decade to the left. Series_1259,1261,1262_General_PurposeA mechanical counter employs variations of a very old mechanical device called a geneva cam, along with printed wheels, which change constant motion into intermittent motion. This is exemplified by the incrementing of digits in a mechanical counter as they increase due to rotary or ratchet input. Often viewed as “ancient” or “old timey” technology, mechanical counters today are still designed into a myriad of applications where newer technology just won’t do the job with as much reliability and durability. When you need to measure or control how much, how far, or how many, only the best will do, choose a Veeder-Root mechanical counter!

Topics: Veeder-Root & Eagle Signal, Counters

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Written by Phillip Warwick

Phillip has a long history with Danaher Specialty Products. In his most recent role as Applications Support, he is the SME on all things that time and count for Eagle Signal and Veeder-Root. He's no stranger to supporting our other brands as well. You'll find he's always willing to help!


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