Adding it up

Ever use one of these?

You see them in more conservative Amish shops. “Higher” Amish tend to use battery-powered cash registers.

It’s funny to even see one of those big block calculators anywhere nowadays, much less an adding machine.

Echoing my curiosity over modest clothing signs, I wonder if Old Order businesses are the last places in America you’ll find these.

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    1. Ed

      Good stuff. I wonder where they get replacement parts or buy new ones? Though likely the old adding machines were “built to last” and seldom need to be repaired.

    2. Tom Keenan

      I try to find old adding machines at garage sales to talk to Amish friends.

    3. Lisa

      My fingers used to fly on one of these. In high school. I won’t mention how many years ago that was. ;o)

    4. Jane Foard Thompson

      old office machines

      A lifetime ago, I did bookkeeping on an old machine that had a long column of gears that moved across the top, with division causing cachunking that felt like five minutes per function. And fingers didn’t fly, because I had to push each key as if I were trying to drill through the table.

      1. With all that cachunking, and drilling down keys, those numbers probably felt more “real” though 😉

    5. Mary Yoder

      Adding it up

      I used to ‘add it up’ for Dad on one of these when taxes had to be figured. Wonder if they still have that adding machine. My fingers sure didn’t fly. I felt 12 feet high and ever so important…ahhh the good ole days.

    6. SharonR

      Old calculators/adding machines

      OH YES, I remember those! In a retail business my father used to work in, I would go with him sometimes, after hours while he was finishing up his work. To keep my hands busy, he would turn me loose on one of these—this was in the 50’s!! I loved the bigger ones, with the long “carriage”, that would do more complicated transactions….think the clickety-click of the machine was fascinating for me, as a youngster! My imagination would fly — I would pretend I was actually in a “store”, ringing up items! As all of us that grew up in the 1950’s, we created our own “fun”, in various ways!

      As Ed mentioned, I bet these old machines were pretty reliable and made to last! Maybe that is why we still see some around — hey, it fills the bill, for the Amish, to run their businesses!! I say, why not?

    7. Marilyn from NY

      Oh memories. I worked in an office and I use to use one of those daily where I worked. I really liked those machines over the new ones. When you got done adding something you could rip off the tape and compare it with the list you were adding to check yourself. Now days to check yourself you have to keep re-adding it to make make sure you got the right total. The day those came to an end where I worked was the day my boss couldn’t get any more ink ribbons for them. We could get the paper rolls, but no ink ribbons. Of course that was before the days of e-bay, Amazon, etc. My boss ended up buying us all new adding machines that none of us really wanted-we liked the old ones. That was many, years ago now. If I had a choice I still would like one of those old style again.

    8. Mary Beth

      Oh my gosh! My father is an accountant and he had one of these in the 80’s. When he got a new modern one he brought this one home for the kids to play with.

    9. Robin Miller

      About twice a year I head up to Annapolis, MD and always make a stop at the Amish market. I am always amazed at how well the workers at the market can add up the prices of the items I am purchasing, right in their heads! I learned to do the same growing up in the 60s … however, today’s kids would be hard-pressed to do so withouth a calculator in hand. Today’s educators don’t have tossed these daily essentials away.

      1. Robin Miller

        Meant “Today’s educations have tossed these daily essentials away” … now, that’s what I get for not checking what I wrote! 🙂

        1. Robin Miller

          There I go again … “Today’s educators … ” 🙂

      2. Matt from CT

        My youngest nephew can’t really make a “signature” as they no longer teach cursive — he’s 12 I believe; that had to be a change from his sister whose 16 since it surprised his mom.

    10. Roberta Klooster

      Wow – that’s really a great looking machine! It brings back fond memories of my father who was an accountant and always had a big adding machine sitting on his desk. No, we aren’t Amish but lived in the country and simply, so I feel we are in some ways kindred spirits, especially since now our lives are devoted to God too.

      Christmas season blessings to all of my Amish and Mennonite “brothers and sisters” and those of us on here who love them.

      Lifting Jesus Higher.

    11. Mary Beth

      You are right about that Robin…I will not let my son use one even when he says that kids in school use them and teachers let them. And do you know what? My son is advanced in math because I am strict with that.

    12. Roberta Klooster

      Ha ha – Marilyn, I followed my Dad and love working with figures too. I can’t do without my calculator that has the tape so I can check it.

    13. I learned to use one in my early teens when I helped do the harvest bookkeeping on a neighbour’s farm. I think the couple had an idea that I might be taking on their farm since their own grandchildren were not interested, but I flew away too. Now I wish I had that beautiful farm!

    14. Alice Aber

      My first real job


      My first real, on the books, job was in a small grocery store. It was small but carried everything you would find in any other grocery store, just not as many brands. I was just 16. We did not have a cash register, nor did we have any kind of calculator. We had a pencil and the back of paper sacks. Back then food items were not taxable but paper products and cleaning supplies were. So you made two columes, one taxable and one non-taxable. Yes, you added it up and did the math yourself, LOL. I bet you I could go as fast as those running computerized cash registers today and be as accurate!!

      Everyone in my family had their turn at working at that store as their first job. The owner, Dave, trained us up right. I was very small and running to the store for my mother when he first started teaching me how to count money and figure out totals and change. That was before I started kindergarten!! Boy did I know money, LOL. Those were the days!!

      As an adult I had a couple of jobs in a grocery store. People sure did look at me funny when I actually started counting back change, most don’t today.

      Blessings, Alice

      1. Merry

        Grinning with you Alice

        Pencil, paper sack (that you filled with the shoppers groceries) and counting change back ~ from the total of the purchase to the amount given. Unless it’s the exact coin change of the purchase most cashiers today haven’t a clue when I give them change. For example, the bill is $19.76 and I give them $20.01… I’ve been told I didn’t have enough. d’oh!

        1. Grinning with both of you

          Guys, I can just tell that the less mental math I do, the duller I become at it. I guess because my work nowadays doesn’t have me doing as much. I’ve never been a math genius but I believe I was a bit sharper in my book-selling days 🙂

    15. Alice Aber


      Merry, I hear you. I get that all the time in the stores. Or if I ask them to count the change back to make sure it is right they look at me funny. “Well it says, $2.98 change so it must be right”, LOL. Nope, not necessarily, you might have put in the wrong amount tended, count it back. They do not like me in stores, LOL. Of course, they never count it back either. Oh how I wish for the old days and the old ways. 🙂

      Blessings, Alice

    16. Donna

      Laughing so hard

      This is so funny – I was a junior accountant (in England) less than 10 years ago and we had one of these in every office! I preferred to use a computer, but there were several people in the office (and not all old) who insisted upon using them!

    17. Adding It Up

      I think I used one of these adding machines when I would visit my grandmother’s house. She was part of that generation that grew up during the Great Depression…an they used everything till it wore out. So her adding machine was fantastic. Sure, it was a bit bulky, but it did the job. So she never bothered to get anything smaller. Greetings from the ocean shores of California, Heather 😉

    18. Matt from CT

      My oldest uncle retired from National Cash Register around 1980, and immediately turned around as was hired back on 2-3 days a week repairing mechanical cash registers in the southern New England area…they still had enough repair work to keep him busy part-time, but no interest in training a younger guy to take over.

    19. Eli

      It’s not just the Amish who still hold on to some outdated technology. I inherited my grandfather’s 1950’s office desk and filing cabinet, they must weigh a thousand pounds all together.

      I immediately set about outfitting it with an old rolodex, typewriter, tape dispenser…

      I wanted to find an old mechanical adding machine but they are not cheap, had to settle for a 1970’s Texas Instruments electric one.

      Believe it or not, I use it all. You don’t lose your contacts if your phone falls in the sink with a Rolodex, the typewriter is great for filling out forms for my kids school (I have terrible handwriting), everything is metal, well built, and made in the USA (sadly, long ago).

      Regarding your posts last week, we still have the 1940’s family radio (I would love to move the tv out and put it in its place), and my two young children loved the Viewmaster, until the 2 year old ate all the slides. We’re waiting a little while before replacing them 🙂

      1. Typewriters

        Eli, nice to hear those old classics are living on 🙂 Speaking of the typewriter, I recall that I learned to type on one–this was I guess 1992, on the cusp of computers becoming universal in schools.

        I’m glad I had a chance to bang around on one of the old machines, even if it was 3 months of a-s-d-f j-k-l-; and so on. Don’t know if I’ll ever use one again, though.