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Dead medium: Schott's Organum Mathematicum
From: boneill@allinux1.alliance.net (Bradley O'Neill)
Source(s): A History Of Computing Technology by Michael R. Williams; Prentice-Hall, 1985. LC#QA71.W66 1985

(((This machine was essentially an encyclopedia for the various mathematical tasks any 17th century 'learned gentlemen' might face. The bone tablets mentioned herein can be thought of as 'applications' in the contemporary sense. Each tablet was a long strip swathed with specific calculation rules and tables for specific areas of learning. All of the tablets can be catalogued, retrieved, and cross-referenced from within a large slanted dais....

To my knowledge, this device was one of the first western efforts to collect disparate and specific mathematical applications together in one body.)))

pp. 94-96

ORGANUM MATHEMATICUM: Built by Gaspard Schott, Rome(?), 1666. Based on John Napier's multiplying rulers (aka Napier's Bones) of the previous century, the Organum Mathematicum was "a large box in which are stored ten different sets of bone-like tablets for performing a variety of different tasks."

There were tablets used for:

ARITHMETIC: a standard set of Napier's bones together with addition and subtraction tables.

GEOMETRY: tablets whose primary purpose was to solve problems encountered in survey work.

FORTIFICATION: tablets which would aid the gentleman soldier in constructing military fortifications.

CALENDAR: tablets used in determining the date of Easter and the dates of the other major Christian festivals.

GNOMICS: tablets to calculate parameters to construct sun dials on all surfaces independent of their direction or inclination.

SPHERICS: tablets which would help in calculating the movement of the sun, determine the times of sunrise and sunset for any given day or year, and other similar problems.

PLANETARY MOVEMENTS: tablets to perform calculations to determine the motion of the planets and to cast horoscopes.

EARTHWORKS: two sets of tablets dealing with the calculations involved in cut and fill problems for the construction of canals and civil engineering.

MUSIC: tablets which would aid the novice in composing music and creating melodies.

(((The Organum Mathematicum looks quite cumbersome, taking up the space of a large desk. Of course, portability in computation was not yet a big issue, so the size probably quite impressed users of the day.)))