Oswald Beher

At the end of the 1880s, Oswald Beher, a teacher in the Großguhrau district of Falkenberg in Upper Silesia, German Empire (now Góra, Opole Voivodeship, Poland), invented a keyboard adding machine, similar to the earlier device of Friedrich Arzberger. The device was patented in Germany in 1889 (see patent №50885 of 7 July 1889), Austria-Hungary (№22697, 13 May 1890), England (№13538, 21 Aug 1890), and in the USA (US494618, 4 Apr 1893).

The drawing of German patent of Oswald Beher (patent №50885 of 7 July 1889)
The drawing of the German patent of Oswald Beher (patent №50885 of 7 July 1889)

The instrument maker Carl Gustav Pinzger (the owner from 1843 of mechanical workshop Pinzger in Breslau, founded in 1820 by his father Ernst Wilhelm Pinzger) made the first models in Breslau. On 15 September 1892, the company Frister & Rossmann in Berlin (a still-existing German manufacturer of sewing and embroidery systems) took over the execution of the machine. Until WWII a model of the device was kept in the collection of the Breslau School Museum, but it didn’t survive to our time.

Let’s examine the simple single-column adding machine of Oswald Beher, using the drawing of the German patent (see the nearby image).

In the improved machine horizontal crown wheel provided on its circumference with a series of numbers from 0 to 99 inclusive is adapted to be revolved by a spring when released by the depression of any one of a series of keys numbered from 1 to 9 inclusive. The depression of any one of these keys causes a finger to be thrust forward to engage with pins, the equivalent of teeth on the crown wheel so that the said finger is carried along with the crown wheel on its revolution and arrests the movement of the latter by arriving against a stop pin moved into its path by the respective key so that the amount of revolution allowed to the crown wheel is equivalent to the value of the key. A “hundred” wheel is also provided and operated, and means are provided for setting both wheels simultaneously to zero. The maximum sum in the result mechanism is 499.