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Olympia RT4

One of the very last pinwheel calculators, bar none (1969!), in the same league as the Facit 1004, Brunsviga 16T and Schubert E. Whereas the Facit CM 2-16 or 1004 was timely (end of the 1950's), and it was sold a lot and can be found often in collections, the story is a bit different for the other two. The Schubert E was built in a very limited number from 1961 on, sales starting in 1963. It flopped completely. Imagine the insanity of bringing a new handcranked pinwheel calculator on the market as late as 1969! About 1500 were produced until 1972 as a cheap alternative for the newfangled electronic calculator, when realisation had not entirely set in that the mechanical era was actually very much over already. The machine sports all of the controls on the right, for easy one-hand operation.

I am very happy to have found the machine here in Belgium. Originally it was sold in Antwerp by Frans Jacobs & Zoon. It came to me completely blocked. Since the machine conforms to the "new thinking" in machine construction, nothing can be disassembled, as it is all peened or twisted together and cannot be taken apart without destroying it. I had to satisfy myself with thoroughly lubricating all of the insides with a thin silicone oil and trying to push and pull here and there until everything clicked in place. Two very frustrating evenings indeed! The return spring for the pinwheel cylinder seems to have lost its strength, so it is very difficult to get the machine really back to zero - the leftmost digit in the multiplier can almost never be used when the housing is in place, so the machine will either not indicate the number of turns after a reset, or, if the pinwheel cylinder is shifted left and right a few times, the counter wheel one place to the left will show the multiplier. Other than that, the machine is stiff, but it works. I have not mustered up the courage to try the back transfer - or rather, I cannot figure out how to use it, if it works at all. Sadly, also the two buttons on either side of the keyboard are missing. I will have to cast something in their place, but as they originally have arrows and letters cast into the button, that will not be easy.

Some pictures of this very rare and special machine: