Adix of Josef Pallweber and Adolf Bordt

On 1 October 1903, the company Adix Company Pallweber & Bordt of Mannheim, Germany, was entered into the commercial register, for the production of calculating machines. The sole shareholders were Josef Pallweber (1858-1921), a famous Austrian/German engineer, equipment manufacturer, and inventor, and Adolf Bordt (1875-1940), an owner of a business for office machines and furniture.

Adix patent drawing (patent №DE173286 from 1904)
Adix patent drawing (patent №DE173286 from 1904)

Josef Pallweber obviously was the engineering force behind the project, while Bordt was the organizational and financial force. Pallweber left the company five years later, in October 1908, while Bordt remained as the sole owner until the middle 1920s.

The first patent of the Adix adder is the German patent №DE173286 from 11 Dec 1904 (see the nearby drawing), granted to Josef Pallweber, known mainly as the inventor of the so-called jump hour watch (first digital watch). From 1883 until 1927, Pallweber was a holder of many patents in several countries for clock devices and for several calculating machines and cash registers. Later Adix was patented in Austria, France, Switzerland, Great Britain, Canada, France, and the USA—see the US patent).

The device was in production from 1904 till 1930 by the Adix Company, Mannheim, Germany, as the 1904 price was 15 marks (the typical daily wage in Germany in 1913 was between 3 and 6 marks). By 1908 the price had risen to 30 marks, and it was proudly announced that 25000 examples had been sold. Adix was advertised in many European magazines as “Invaluable in the office”, “The best present to give to a lady”, and “A child can use it”. Improved versions of the device were manufactured also under other names, e.g. Diera (since 1911) and Kuli (since 1913). Bordt later started the production of full-keyboard adding machines—Bordt (1908) and ADMA (1919). Except for Adix, all of his machines did not achieve market success.

The Adix adding machine (courtesy of Mr. Arthur Rosen)
The Adix adding machine (courtesy of Mr. Arthur Rosen)

The Adix (see the nearby image) is a click wheel column adder with nine keys, using the so-called Schaltklinke (switching latch, or switching pawl, described first time by Jacob Leupold in 1727) based calculation mechanism. It has overall dimensions (without box): 15 x 10 x 3 cm and weight: 0.5 kg and was sold in a beautiful grained leather brown wooden box. The calculator consists of 122 parts and for the first time in a computing machine have been used parts made of aluminum.

The whole mechanism lies exposed so that the operator may clearly see how the key depression is transmitted to the counting mechanism. Addition occurs by key depression, but the machine does not permit the addition of whole amounts, it merely permits additions of columns of individual digits to the extent to which they do not exceed a total sum of 999. If the calculation in one column has been completed, the operator makes a note of the last digit and registers the carryover by means of the keys.

The cutout under each key has a different slope, so the plate gets pushed at a distance proportional to the number keyed in. The plate in turn pushes the wire rod, which rotates the crank arm through an angle proportional to the key’s number. The crank is loosely coupled to the large brass cogwheel, but this stays put because of the ratchet action of the spring. Then, when the key is released and the rod and crank move back, the cogwheel does turn with the crank, and in doing so increments the units gear of the result readout. Carrying from units to tens and so on happens through the gearing you’d expect.

The Kuli adding machine of Pallweber/Bordt from 1913
The Kuli adding machine of Pallweber/Bordt from 1913

From the patents, it appears that the key selling point of Adix was that it was noiseless. As the inventor mentioned in the patent:
It is, however, important for all these (adding) machines to work silently, because any noise would disturb the operator and others working in the same room; but up to the present it has been impossible to avoid this inconvenience, because of the stop-pawls operating the sets of wheels, which when pressed against the teeth by means of springs produce a rattle upon the return motion. When the return motion is limited by a stop, a violent shock takes place at each operation, accompanied by a noise which has a tendency to cause the premature deterioration and putting out of order of the entire mechanism.

In essence, Adix was a very beautiful device and a fine piece of workmanship, but with little practical usefulness, due to its limited capacity.

In the nearby image, you can see the improved version of Adix, called Kuli (pen), which was in production by Adix Company Pallweber & Bordt from 1913 until 1919. Kuli was the culmination of that series of simple, small adding machines with a direct display.

The dimensions of the device (with box) are: 8 x 23 x 10 cm, weight: 1.3 kg. Not only can additions be carried out with it in a particularly convenient way: after adding a row, you only need to press a special key to start the next row of numbers; the total remains in the machine up to a 12-digit result, whereby the carriage with the counter is shifted to the desired higher decimal by pressing a button. Multiplications with up to 5-digit numbers are also possible, although with manual operations. The price was originally 60, then 75 marks.

Biography of Josef Pallweber and Adolf Bordt

House Nieberlein in Schörfling, a traditional shop that grew out of the locksmith's shop of Ernst Pallweber, probably Josef Pallweber was born in this house in 1858
House Nieberlein in Schörfling, a traditional shop that grew out of the locksmith’s shop of Ernst Pallweber, probably Josef Pallweber was born in this house in 1858

Josef (a.k.a. Joseph) Benedikt Pallweber was born on 7 February 1858, in Schörfling am Attersee bei Vöcklabruck, a village between Salzburg and Linz, in Upper Austria. He was the son of the local locksmith Ernst Pallweber. In the nearby image, you can see a photo from 1910 of the hardware store Nieberlein on the market square of Schörfling (Gmundnerstraße 2, formerly Schörfling 72), a traditional shop that grew out of the locksmith’s shop of Ernst Pallweber, who bought the house in 1856 and lived there with his family until 1877, so most probably Josef Pallweber was born in this house.

As young Josef Pallweber spent some time in Switzerland, studying the watchmaking trade, but around 1880 returned to Austria. Until 1886 he worked as a watchmaker in Salzburg. In this period Pallweber became known for his patent from 1883 for the jump number watch, which was essentially the first digital watch in the world (patented in Germany and Great Britain in 1883, and in the USA in 1885). Since Pallweber granted licenses to the watch factories IWC Schaffhausen and Cortébert Watch, among others, which produced a great number of these watches between 1885 and 1910 (e.g. IWC produced some 20000 pieces), the name Pallweber watch became a synonym for jump number watches.

In 1886 Pallweber moved to Mannheim, Germany. There on 16 August 1886, he married Lina (Magdalena) Mack (1862—10 Oct 1931). Around 1890 they moved to Furtwangen, then to Frankfurt am Main. The Pallweber couple moved back to Mannheim on 10 March 1903 after a short stopover in Baden-Baden.

From the middle of the 1890s until approx. 1902 Pallweber worked at the Frankfurter Fabrik Mechanischer Apparate in Frankfurt. There he worked among other things on the construction of a “clock with convertible digits”, a cash register/adding machine (US patents Nr. 630922 from 1899 and 648126 from 1900), and a printing full-keyboard adding machine (German patent №131337 from 1900).

On 1 October 1903, the company Adix Company Pallweber & Bordt of Mannheim, Germany, was entered into the commercial register, for the production of calculating machines. The sole shareholders were Pallweber and Bordt. On 1 October 1908, Pallweber left the company, and Bordt became sole proprietor.

After leaving the Adix Company in 1908, Pallweber established a company for technical inventions and patented an “alarm device for portable cassettes and similar containers”. By 1911, his patents shift focus to alarmed portable cash boxes, and we can only assume that he succeeded in making a living from those as well.

Josef Pallweber died on 28 January 1921, in Mannheim, shortly before his 63-rd birthday.


Adolf Bordt (1875-1940)
Adolf Hermann Bordt (1875-1940)

Adolf Hermann Bordt was born on 28 July 1875, in Karlsruhe. He moved from there to Mannheim on 11 June 1901 and initially lived in various pensions. Soon he founded a business for office machines and furniture—Bordt, Adolf (Oliver typewriter, office furniture, Stolzenberg system, computer innovations).

Adolf Bordt remained active in the calculating machines production business from 1903 until the early 1930s. Unfortunately, after the initial success of Adix and leaving of Pallweber in 1908, he faced up to several business failures with other calculating machines (Bordt, 1908; Diera, 1911; Kuli, 1913; Adma, 1919; Certa, 1928; Andie, 1930), as all of these machines are based on Pallweber patents.

Bordt married Albertine Berta Földner (born on 22 March 1880 in Mannheim) on 28 May 1904. Her parents came from Leipzig-Gohlis and moved to Mannheim in 1879. The Bordt couple lived in Mannheim until 6 February 1919, when they moved to Leipzig-Gohlis, the place of origin of the in-laws.

In the early 1930s, Bordt had some legal problems and even spent some time (1 year, 1933-34) in a prison. On 17 November 1936, Bordt married again to Charlotte Gertrud Meissner, born in 1899 in Thale, Harz region.

Adolf Bordt died on 31 August 1940 at the age of 65.