I bought a Curta Mark I Mechanical Calculator.
Behold, the Arithmetical Peppermill.

This machine is amazingly cool.
It makes the most wonderful noises.

I have so far resisted the urge to take it apart.

Here's a nice emulator in Flash.
I've seen links to a PalmOS version, but those are all 404.

More info at

Tags: , , , ,

39 Responses:

  1. mc_kingfish says:

    Suitable for calculating the velocity of your airship ascent.

    P.S. I love that thing, and I don't even really know what it is.

  2. jsbowden says:

    Very cool. When do you meet the ex CIA guy drinking himself to death in a trailer?

    • jwz says:

      I call those days "weekdays".

    • dantheserene says:

      Someone read the same book I did.

      • mcity says:

        Two someones.

        And here I was hoping I would get to the ref first. A fool's hope.

        • jwz says:

          Jesus Christ, people. It's not like it's EVEN REMOTELY OBSCURE.

          Can we just take it as a given that everyone who reads my LJ has also read every science fiction novel that has made the New York Times Best Seller list in the last twenty years?

          Because I think we can.

          You are not a unique and beautiful snowflake because you read science fiction. Certainly not around these parts.

          • mcity says:

            Actually, due to certain logistical problems, Pattern Recognition is the only Gibson novel I've read, ever. I can't even read the Dark Tower without crossing an ocean or selling a kidney.

          • fu3dotorg says:

            I for one, I believe, have never touched a sci-fi publication, for good or ill..

            But I love the peppermill(!) - Will sliding the sideknobs vary the grind-coarseness? - I almost expect that they've embedded that kind of detail into it.

            ..The pictures alone makes one cringe in mad disassembling fever.

    • Heh, I was always wondering how one of these worked since I read that...

  3. xinit says:

    Ten minutes ago, I didn't know this device existed. Now, I can't imagine life without one.

  4. latemodel says:

    If you take it apart, for your own sake, you should shoot good, closeup video of the process. That will help you put it back together.

    You should also shoot video of yourself putting it back together. That won't help you any, but it will be HILLARIOUS for the rest of us.

  5. Jealous, so very jealous. Wanted one of these for years.

  6. ydna says:

    Oh, cruel mechanical lust, you return to haunt me again.

  7. kavavita says:

    but.. does it vibrate?

  8. cynthia1960 says:

    This is truly nifty.

  9. elusis says:

    raychoo was going to get me to make her a Shrinky Dink necklace of one of those a couple of months ago, but at the last second she changed her mind and went with some kind of mathematical wave form.

  10. lrc says:

    Nice pictures too. I've wanted one of those for years myself.

    You are now so ready to go out and do TSD rallies.

    P.S. I never read the aforementioned Gibson novel. Does that make me a rare and special snowflake?

    • nightrider says:


      I haven't read it either.


      I haven't read any Gibson, for that matter.
      Nor have I ever read anything by Phillip K. Dick, and yet, I somehow wound up with a NEXUS SIX license plate.

      Take that, nerds!

  11. nightrider says:

    ...are you sure that's not a hand grenade?

    It looks an awful lot like a hand grenade. Not only that, but a futuristic, steampunk (yeah, I said it) hand grenade.

  12. elevatordown says:

    Did you get a chance to see The Difference Engine in action at the computer history museum in Mountain View, yet?

  13. ghewgill says:

    That, sir, is truly exquisite. I'm jealous.

  14. abelits says:

    Mechanical calculator is only expensive if your time is valuable.


  15. gths says:

    Liechtenstein's only significant export aside from (looks up Wikipedia) masonry drills and false teeth!

  16. vxo says:

    I approve. I'd love to hear audio of the Curta in action... something tells me it could be sampled to make a killer rhythm* section. Hell, held next to a microphone it could be used in a live performance.

    I wonder if NASA's ever sent these into space. It'd be perfect... it works as long as the meat robots do, and is completely radiation resistant by design. Hmm.

    I remember seeing a documentary a while back on the Apollo 13 mission. When the astronauts were stuck in the lunar lander module, trying to figure out how long to fire the module's thruster, they had to do it by hand on paper. This would have been so much cooler.

    * I can never remember how to spell this. Thank you, Livejournal, for adding spell check!

  17. wetzel says:

    Do not test with the TSA.

  18. marm0t says:

    Just got all excited thinking this was an antique camera. Then realized it had no recognizable camera parts and thought that was EVEN COOLER.

  19. matthew says:

    And suddenly the blogosphere* is full of links to Curta. The jwz effect in action.

    * sorry, I will now go drink pesticide to absolve me of this heinous crime.

    • hadlock says:

      Yeah, I was thinking, JWZ singlehandedly doubled the value of every Curta calc. out there. When I someday finish college(many years and counting still), this is the graduation present I require from my parents.