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Combination:Calculating Machine and Printer, 1897

Leaving a Legacy

In 1897, the Franklin Institute presented its John Scott Legacy Medal to William S. Burroughs "for the ingenuity displayed in successfully combining a calculating machine with a printer so as to obtain a printed record of the operation of the machine."

The award-winning Burroughs Registering Accountant was an early model of what is today known as a calculator. This machine performed one simple function: addition. As a young inventor, Burroughs had realized that America was experiencing a rapid growth of industry and technology, and had known there was a need for a machine that could add numbers quickly and accurately.

He was not the first to conceive of a device that would aid its user with the process of adding long columns of numbers: several of his contemporaries were working on ways to mechanize the process in 19th Century America. However, he was the first to transform current principles into a key-set, crank-operated adding-listing machine. He sat down to construct such a machine in 1884, unaware of the far-reaching affects his adding machine would have on America, and the world.