Louis Chambon

The Parisian Casimir Louis Chambon was a holder of two French patents for table-based calculating devices—French patent Nr. 115319 from 3 Nov 1876 for Calculateur mécanique universel, and French patent Nr. 198553 from 28 May 1889 for Multiplicateur Diviseur, granted to his company—Société Chambon et Baye, représenté par Dumas. The calculators of Chambon had been produced and sold under different names in the late 1870s and 1880s by his company.

The Tachylemme calculator of C. L. Chambon
The Tachylemme calculator of C. L. Chambon

The Tachylemme of Chambon (introduced in 1880, see the nearby image), based on the second patent, is a specialized tabular calculator, showing the daily interest on sums of money at various rates. It doesn’t have a calculating mechanism, but is based on printed tables (it has 4 cylinder-based tables, 9 rows, 99 cells/cylinder, total cells 396).

The device was made of wood, paper, metal, and glass, with measurements: 175 x 100 x 35 mm, and a weight: of 410 g. It has four printed cylinders: 1-9; 10-90; 100-900; and 1000-9000 so arranged that percentages for every half percent from one to six percent can be read through slits. The total of say 6,216 at 4 percent could be figured by adding the sums shown in the four rows.

According to Maurice d’Ocagne:
This arrangement of numerical table on adjacent cylinders has the further advantage of being extendable to certain tables having three entries. It is clear that, if by some means the numbers read from the cylinders can be made to vary according to the values of a third entry, then a triple scale has been achieved. It is this idea that Mr. Chambon most ingeniously put into practice in his Calculateur d’intérêts, which gives the interest payable, for any number of days, on capital sums up to 99,999 Fr. at rates of 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, and 6%. The vertical columns of the table correspond to the first entry, the number of days. As in the Didelin device, the units, tens, . . . , tens of thousands are assigned to the various cylinders, on each of which an endless loop contains the nine lines corresponding to the second entry.
Although Chambon’s arrangement is most ingenious, and most appropriate to the particular application for which it was developed, it does not allow any great increase in the number of distinct values for the third entry; consequently, its use is rather limited.

The Multiplicateur Enfantin of Chambon
The Multiplicateur Enfantin of Chambon

Chambon also introduced similar calculators for the multiplication tables, based on the first patent, called Multiplicateur Enfantin (introduced 1878), an automatic calculator showing multiplication tables up to 50 times 28, and Tachypolyplasiasme (introduced 1884, showing multiplication tables up to 100 times 100).

The Multiplicateur Enfantin (see the nearby photo) is 18 cm long, by 3.5 cm wide, by 2 cm thick. The cylinders are less than 0.5 cm in diameter. The roll is on very fine rice paper. Two vertical slits, cut in the front of the box containing the cylinders, allow only two vertical columns of products to be visible at one time. To obtain the product of any number from 2 to 50 and any number from 2 to 28, the number to be multiplied is brought into one of the holes at the top of the apparatus. The left opening takes numbers from 2 to 25, and the right opening numbers from 26 to 50. The required product will then be found in one of the slits opposite the multiplier, which is in the vertical column between the slits.

Chambon’s Tachypolyplasiasme is a larger modification of the Multiplicateur Enfantin and gives the products of any number from 2 to 100 multiplied by any number within the same range. It won a medal at the Universal Exposition of 1878. The dimensions of the device are: 26 cm long, 4 cm wide, by 2 cm thick.

As a whole, not only tabular calculators of Chambon, but all such devices, used between about 1630 and the 1950s, had very limited success in terms of market penetration and hardly rate a footnote in the history of computing.

Biography of Casimir Louis Chambon

Almost nothing is known about Casimir Louis Chambon. Besides the above-mentioned two French patents from 1876 and 1889, we know that in 1879 he applied for a Great Britain patent for apparatus for ascertaining and indicating the number of days between two dates.

In fact, there is a very good French engineer-mechanic and entrepreneur from this time with the same name, but he was too young in 1876 to get a patent. Louis Chambon was born on 21 August 1861 in La Voulte-sur-Rhône (Ardèche). He graduated as a mechanical engineer from Ecole des Arts et Métiers in Aix en Provence in the early 1880s and went to work in Paris. In 1887, he founded a small company, the Machines Chambon, designing his first machine, a printing press, for a cigarette manufacturer.

In 1889, Chambon took advantage of the opportunity offered by the Paris World Fair to exhibit 5 printing machines. This exhibition brought him commercial success and his first contact with the sugar industry. In 1891 he built the world’s first web-fed printing machine, in 5 colors. In 1894, with the Braunstein brothers, Chambon developed a machine for entangling the sheets of cigarette paper, which led to the creation of the brand of cigarette paper Zig-Zag. Among the productions automated by genius Chambon machines are cigarettes, postage stamps, chocolate wrappers, coffee packets, laundry boxes, tram, and metro tickets, bottle labels, etc.

Louis Chambon died on 29 May 1932 in his property in La Châtaigneraie in Ardèche, but the Machines Chambon company existed for more than a century, until 1989 when it merged with Komori Corporation to form Komori-Chambon, an important company in the printing world.

Interestingly, Louis Chambon was a holder of numerous patents from the late 1800s and early 1900s, several of them related to adding machines and cash registers—US patents Nr. 765573 for Composing disk for cash registers or adding machines, Nr. 790627 for Automatic spool carrying drawer for cash registers, Nr. 885464 for Color printing device in cash registers, and many other similar French, Austrian, German, and Swedish patents.