Math in the Media

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Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"The Curious History of the First Pocket Calculator," by Cliff Stoll. Scientific American, January 2004,pages 92-99.

The first pocket calculator, a mechanical rather than electronic device, lookedlike a pepper grinder and calculated as the user spun a crank. Called theCurta, it was invented by Curt Herzstark in the 1940s. This article describesthe device (with some nice graphics), its history, and the fascinating saga ofHerzstark, who survived the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald. The Curta wasmanufactured in Liechtenstein and sold for two decades before being replaced bybattery-powered calculators. Herzstark died in 1988 at the age of 86.

--- Mike Breen