Doing mathematics involve doing calculations, much involving numbers, although there is much mathematics which is symbolic in nature and not numeric.
For numeric calculations, the original “computers” were the skilled individuals who were good and fast at working out the various calculations by hand, using pencil and paper, since there was no calculating equipment to be able to assist them. In fact for the majority of the time that humanity has been doing mathematics there was no such equipment available, and the development of such equipment was only widely available around 100 years go using expensive mechanical calculators, and then with the development electronic computers, and electronic calculators only widely available in the past 30 years.
So what did we do to perform calculations previously?
This programme is for the development of a collection of calculating equipment and resources. This will include books to support calculations, such as
The outcomes of this programme are:
- a physical collection of historical calculating equipment such as mechanical calculators, slide rules, and early digital computers – noting that this is not intended to become a museum of computers.
- the repair and conservation of this equipment to ensure that these remain operational for demonstration purposes.
- research into the history of the equipment including the organisations and individuals who were involved.
- articles and videos on how the equipment work.
- providing support for curriculum requirements in the history of mathematics.
- sourcing old mathematical equipment, using the collection development policy as a guide on what should and should not be collected
- storage and conservation of the equipment
- repair of the equipment to ensure that this is working order (noting that come of the equipment which is currently in the collection does not work but can be fixed).
- sourcing of funding for purchases when this is needed, requesting that these be donated to the museum as the first pass in all negotiations
- researching the usage of the equipment, including advanced uses which are not immediately evident
- developing a documentary archive of related manuals, user guides, etc.
- writing articles and creating videos
- developing a virtual exhibition for this
- cataloguing the collection and making this available for online searching