Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Aug 21 (1885) William S. Burroughs Patents Adding Machine: "Sure, I've seen them. Keys and handles that you pull"

Burroughs Adding Machine (Class 1 Style 5)

William Seward Burroughs I received a patent for his adding machine on August 21, 1885, a product he invented to ease the monotony of clerical work. His first job after graduation was as a clerk at the Cayuga County National Bank of Auburn, New York where he spent long hours adding numbers. He went on to found American Arithmometer Company, which became Burroughs Corporation which merged with Sperry to form Unisys.

The grandson of the inventor is Beat author William S. Burroughs; a collection of his essays is called The Adding Machine.

And Elmer Rice first published his classic play "The Adding Machine" in 1923. It's the story of Mr. Zero, an accountant who is replaced by an adding machine. Excerpted below.

Boss
The fact is my efficiency experts have recommended the installation of adding machines.

Zero
Adding machines?

Boss
Yes, you've probably seen them. A mechanical device that adds automatically.

Zero
Sure, I've seen them. Keys and handles that you pull. [He goes through the motion in the air]

Boss
They do the work in half the time, and a high school girl can operate them. Now, of course, I'm sorry to lose an old and faithful employee--

Zero
Excuse me, but would you mind saying that again?

Boss
I say I'm sorry to lose an employee that's been with me for so many years. But of course an organization like this, efficiency must be the first consideration. You will draw your salary for a full month. And I'll direct my secretary to give you a letter of recommendation--

Zero
Wait a minute boss. Let me get this right. You mean I'm canned?

Boss
I'm sorry--no other alternative--greatly regret--old employee--efficiency--economy--business--BUSINESS!



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Flannery O'Connor

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.