Peter Landin

The Landin’s Computing Machine patent drawing

Peter J. Landin (1858-1940), a Sweden-born American inventor and businessman, commenced his work on calculating machines in the late 1880s, then living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In September 1890 Landin applied for his first patent in this area, US patent No. 482014 for Cash Indicator, Register and Recorder. In February 1891 Landin applied for another patent, this time for Computing-machine (US patent No. 482312). Both patents were granted on 6 September 1892. Later (in 1894) Landin got several other patents for cash registers (US patent No. 526400, 526401, and 526402), and then switched his inventive mind to other machines.

Landin’s computing machine is a simple chain adder, similar to the invented in 1670s Abaque Rhabdologique of Claude Perrault, which was implemented into the later adding devices of César Caze and Heinrich Kummer.

Landin’s Computing-machine was manufactured between 1891 and 1895 by the company, founded by the inventor himself—Landin Computer Co., Minneapolis, and was marketed under the name Landin Computer (see the image below). Later at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the same device was produced by the Rapid Computer Co., Benton Harbour, Michigan, under the name Rapid Computer Adding Machine. The price at the beginning of the 20th century was $25. Since 1909 a slightly improved version of the device was produced by Schubert & Salzer Maschinenfabrik AG in Chemnitz, Germany (manufacturer of bicycles and cash registers), under the name Comptator. In 1922 the production was transferred to Hans Sabielny, Dresden, Germany, and the Comptator had a good market success.

The Landin Computer is a seven digital positions slide-chain adder operated with a pin or pencil, but the inventor mentioned in the patent application that I do not limit myself to this or any particular number of slides, as any desired number of slides and ratchet-wheels may be used. It is a well-designed and manufactured device, with robust and reliable construction, with dimensions (mm): 60W x 205D x 32H, and weight: 750 g.

The stylus (operating pin or pencil) is inserted in the toothed slides in the upper section and is drawn down to the stop (marked with 15 on the patent drawing), advancing the register by the corresponding number of places. The slides remain in their final position so that the value entered can be read back for verification in a straight line above the stop. The slides spring back to their home position when released by the lever on the left-hand side. The lever can be latched down to give an immediate return if checking is not required.

The Landin Computer was actually designed for 19th-century bookkeepers and the width of the slides substantially corresponds with the ordinary spacing of an account-book of the time, so the device can be put over the page, and each slide comes substantially in line with the right-hand figure. The machine can be used with any desired number of columns of figures and with any number of sets or rows of figures, and after each set or number has been added the correct sum will be shown by the device. It is particularly useful in transferring from a journal to a ledger, where the sum of each entry as it is made may be registered on the machine, and this sum, when the work is completed, should correspond with the journal footing. This is termed reversed posting.

Biography of Peter Landin

Fletcher Loren Walker (1872-1962)
Fletcher Loren Walker (1872-1962), a co-worker of Peter Landin

Little is known about the inventor of this calculating machine—Peter J. Landin. He was born Peter Johan Landin on 9 March 1858 in Sweden. Interestingly, as he was obviously known under the Americanized version of his name Peter John Landin, he was the full namesake of the famous British computer scientist Peter John Landin (1930–2009).

Peter Johan Landin married the Sweden-born Ida Marie Ek (1 Oct 1865–11 Mar 1951) on 4 July 1886. They were the parents of three children, unfortunately, two of them died as babies: Esther Resedith (b. May 1888-d. April 1889), Esther Resedith II (30 Jul 1889-22 Aug 1948), and Allbeen (born and died Feb 1890).

Besides the above-mentioned patents for calculating devices, Peter Landin was a holder of several other US patents: for a phonograph (pat. No. 1422453), for a motion picture film (No. 1234046), etc. On the patents of cash registers, Landin worked for the prominent Walker family, a highly successful American business family, who built one of the largest forest products corporations in the USA at the time (Fletcher Loren Walker (1872-1962, see the nearby portrait) is a witness of the first and a co-holder of the other patents for cash registers, assigned to his father, Thomas Barlow Walker (1840-1928)).

In the 1890s Peter Johan Landin lived in Minnesota (Moorhead and Minneapolis). In the 1910s and 1920s, he lived in Denver, Colorado. He died on 24 January 1940 (aged 81) in Moorhead, Cass County, North Dakota.