An Old Burroughs

Adding Machine

Adding Machine

I found this old adding machine tucked into a forgotten, quiet corner of a used bookstore in Ventura, CA. I didn’t know that this particular brand of machine was invented by the grandfather of Beat writer William Burroughs, who wrote a collection of essays called, The Adding Machine.

Technology changes so quickly these days…..people are lining up outside Apple Stores for the iPhone 6, and when I was growing up, a family had one phone that sat on a table, or it was mounted on a wall and required spinning a rotary dial to register a specific number. Zeros were the longest to dial because they were required to travel the entire circumference of the rotary. I can still hear that distinct, mechanical sound, and, oddly, I can remember the smell of my grandparents’ old, black rotary phone…an interesting mix of resin and cigarette smoke.

I never worked an adding machine. By the time I was in high school, early pocket calculators were replacing the slide rules that most students of physics had sticking out of their back pockets. Still, I love the typewriter-like faces (another machine now obsolete) of these adding machines, now relegated to the quiet corners of memory.

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