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Combination:Calculating Machine and Printer, 1897

Wheels and Interchangable Parts

Watching the Wheels Go 'Round

Burroughs took a certain pride in his streamlined, accurate creation. In order to display the ingenious design of the Burroughs Registering Accountant, its inventor installed little glass panels. This addition enabled consumers to watch the inner joints of the machine as they made their carefully mechanized movements. The glass was eventually replaced by steel, as the company found that its clientele was interested only in the fact that the machine worked; they did not care to know why or how. Later, aesthetic improvements included setting the keyboard at an angle agreeable to the hands, and selecting pleasing colors for the outer shell of the machine.

The excerpt shown here, taken from Burroughs' thank you letter to The Franklin Institute upon receipt of his award, speaks of the pride he derives from his ability to invent. The text remarks: "You must know something too of the close kinship an inventor feels with the creation of his brain. It is to him a thing alive, a part of his very being and any recognition given to it, is as dear as life itself. Above all you must understand the crowning satisfaction of a well-earned success."

Interchangeable Parts

Burroughs championed the principle of complete interchangeability. The parts making up the infrastructure of his machine were fully interchangeable, which aided mechanics making repairs. It was also useful in the year 1898, when the American Arithmometer Company established a firm in Europe. Thanks to Burroughs’ principle of complete interchangeability, a British-made part could fit snugly into a machine produced in St. Louis.