Was there life before computer?

calculating instruments before the digital era

The exhibits

The landscape framed by skyscrapers and everything we associate with modernity was designed with calculators conceived in the 17th century, but young people have no idea of the tools that have made it possible.

This is my effort to keep them alive, through exhibits, conferences and lectu- res where analog and mechanical calculators can be tested by the public. I think it is useless to teach maths without explaining how calculations were performed before the digital era, just up to 40 years ago: it would be like teaching history starting only from the Industrial Revolution. It takes just a few minutes to communicate the existence of a world before computers, a world where Man reached the Moon!

Displaying my collection I explain the most significant calculators. The minimum exhibit kit is easily transportable, but I can create a true museum exhibition, with educational aids and interactive simulations. Sometimes I add a brief panorama of the traditional methods of navigation and, to complete the history of ancient technologies, I can show a telegraph station, telephones, typewriters and anything else necessary to recreate an office of the era.

For a better vision of mathematics my exhibits aims to:

  • arouse curiosity about ancient calculators;
  • illustrate their history and use;
  • demonstrate the need to use computers critically.

To avoid boredom I organize dynamic exhibits, focused in teaching how to use the instruments.

From 2008 I show every year at Cagliari Festival Scienza, an Italian science fair sponsored by the U.N.E.S.C.O., a brief history of computing. The opportunity to try the calculators has made the difference and I have always more than 1,500 visitors: an average of three shows per hour. No time to rest!

The best compliment I got from a group of young girls who advised everyone: "go to see the old computers, they are so cool". An unexpected success for a boring topic

The stand for calculators and slide rules

Stand for calculators, slide rules and astro navigation

Was there life before computer? was one of 10 educational projects that
have represented Italy at the Science on Stage Europe Festival 2013 and "Old Calculators & Democracy" will do the same in 2015. The slipstick is still alive: the examiners decided that awakens the mind and is beneficial to the students, a great satisfaction for the work done.

Display of calculators and slide rules

Minimum display of calculators and slide rules

Display of nautic instruments

Minimum display of nautic instruments

A rolling table to show the calculators

Children loves ancient calculators

Children loves ancient calculators

Somebody write notes


Nomograph and slide rule

Nomographs helps the boys to understand logarithm and slide rule

Incredible, many youngsters!

Consul Monkey

I need more than a strong voice ...

The Slide Rule Show is coming

Everybody's mad for the monkey

Explaining the history of computing

Explaining the history of computing

Youngs learn at the fly

Addometers and addiators

At work with addometers and addiators

Many people makes photos!

Consul Monkey

A smile for the television

And in the end a "slipstick concert"

The staff

Nicola Marras 2008 - 2019


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