Alois Salcher

A lazy man is the devil’s handyman.
Austrian proverb

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Austrian engineer and businessman from Innsbruck Alois Salcher devised and put into production a very interesting calculating machine. Despite its original construction, the machine was never much of a success, and it is rare today. The known serial numbers indicate a production run of about 400 machines, and despite production being stopped since 1908, it was still advertised and sold by the end of 1910.

The Adsumudi of Alois Salcher
The Adsumudi calculating machine of Alois Salcher

Salcher got patents for his calculating machine, the so-called ADSUMUDI (after ADdition, SUbtraction, MUltiplication, DIvision), in several countries—Austria (patent AT35115 from 16 Sep 1906), Germany (DE204333 and DE209009), Great Britain (GB190623173 and GB190906657), France (FR370829), and the United States (US974006). Two of the patents Salcher shared with Nikolaus Werle, a merchant from Stuttgart. Some patents (e.g. the American one) are for an improved machine, in which the entire principle of operation has been changed, and that has obviously never been manufactured. ADSUMUDI was produced in Germany by the machine factory of Carl Werner of Villingen (the factory had a branch in Innsbruck), one of the largest watch manufacturers in Germany.  It was a messing device with dimensions 39x30x12 cm, and a weight of 10.8 kg.

The operating principle of this 10-positional calculating machine is quite different from any other mechanical calculator ever manufactured. To move the gears with the result wheels attached to them, it has rectangular plates with a slot in the middle and a gear rack on either side of the slot. Depending on which way the result register moves, the gear engages with the rack on the left or the right of the slot, thus reversing the direction of the result register from addition to subtraction and vice versa. The racks are connected to the spring-loaded setting levers so as soon as they are released, they re-zero themselves and transfer their value to the result. All the rest of the complicated mechanism is designed to engage and disengage the correct side of the rack with the result at the correct time, and to make sure the result register is locked when it is not in engagement with the racks.

Biography of Alois Salcher

Alois Salcher was an engineer and businessman from Innsbruck, Tyrol. He was the owner of Innsbrucker Dampf-Teigwarenfabrik (pasta factory), had a machine workshop, and was engaged in the real estate business. Salcher was a fan of technical novelties and in 1896 he demonstrated the first automobile in Innsbruck.

Alois Salcher married Emilie Hruschka (1870-1930), the daughter of the local dentist Josef Hruschka (1843-1913). The Hruschka family, originally from Moravia, was a famous Austrian family of dentists, and Emilie Hruschka became the first female dentist in Tyrol and Austria. Alois and Emilie had two sons—Alois and Hubert (born 1 Jan 1905), who became doctors and Nazi party members and served in the army during WWII.

Besides the above-mentioned patents for calculating machines, Salcher has one more patent—for Bundle seals for barrels (pat. №DE100118 from 1897).