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Rema a remade Odhner

By Neal McChristy

Rema2Had they not befriended an English couple, Wayne and Denise Gilliland, Fredericksburg, Va., would not now be in possession of a Rema 1915 pinwheel calculator.

The retired couple became friends with a Halifax, England, couple when visiting the Dominican Republic, who later came across the pond to visit the Gillilands. The Virginians visited Europe for six weeks, including Paris, the Alps and England and Scotland. It was in Leeds, England, that Denise Gilliland spied the calculator in a "mom and pop" shop.

"I just saw it and knew it was something unusual, so that's why I bought it," she said. Block & Anderson LTD has a name plate on the device, stating it was manufactured in 13 cities in Ireland, England and Scotland.

Battleground area
Denise Gilliland said she started collecting in 1995. Said she: "I started with an antique sewing machine dated 1901. Then I purchased a pump organ dating back to the 1700's. I have an antique DR set that I am refinishing and a very old school desk."

Being interested in historic areas is appropriate for the Gilliland is interested in historic machines. The Gillilands live next to one of the historic battlefields near Fredericksburg, an area where there were four Civil War battles. They are both former workers for the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, with Wayne having worked on the Space Shuttle program. After working as a controller for NASA, she later worked with a private contractor after leaving NASA. They both retired in 1998.

Light, first-class calculating machine
The Rema has nine setting letters with 13 places in the result mechanism and eight places in the revolution counter. In a book, The Calculating Machines, by Ernst Martin, it states:

"The extraordinarily small size of this machine and its light weight (3.5 kg. [7.72 pounds])allows it to be used on the smallest of writing desks. It's simple operation and safeguards, which rule out any calculating errors, make the Rema a first-class calculating machine. . . "

The earliest model of the Rema, Martin writes, had tens-carry in the revolution-counter mechanism and was also equipment with windows in the setup mechanism. A pinwheel with key setting was manufactured, but not on a large scale. Martin states the machine was manufactured by Braunschweiger Rechenmaschinen in Braunschweig, Hoch Strasse, which is located in northern Germany, east of Hanover.

Rema1 Russian origination
John Lewis, Sr., an expert on antique machines from Albuquerque, N.M., said Block & Anderson was likely the distributor, with Brunsviga as the manufacturer.

The machine is one of the may derived from those invented by Willgodt Theophil Odhner (1845-1905), a Russian who patented the device in 1878. The Odhner was later distributed throughout Europe under numerous names, including the Dactyle, Eclair, Esacta, Minerva, Antares, Walther, Facit, Thales, Triumphator and Alpina.

In 1892, Odhner sold his patent rights to Grimme, Natalis & Co., A.G. of Braunschweig, which manufactured the Odhner calculators under the name Brunsviga.

Editor's note: Anyone who is interested in purchasing the machine may contact Denise Gilliland at

Related Web links

Information about Brunsviga

Brunsviga Nova II calculator

A Brief History of Mechanical Calculators, Part II, Crossing the 19th Century by James Redin

RS&R News: "Tiny Calculator of European Homage"

RS&R News: "Marchant calculators: From pinwheel to SCM "

Calculating machines (information on how they work

Computer History Association of California: history of calculators and computing

Fredericksburg 1: CWSAC Battle Summaries map of Fredericksburg area

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