Vintage Adding Machines | Photography by Kevin Twomey

They may seem like Rube Goldberg machines today, but mechanical adding machines were considered the closest thing to computers not long ago: heaps of gears, levers, and springs engineered to do the work of a $3 calculator. The San Francisco–based photographer Kevin Twomey has produced a wonderful series of these mechanical relics, selected from a collector’s private stash.

“The community of people who collect this cumbersome, not-so-valuable, obsolete machinery is pretty small,” Twomey tells Co.Design. Nonetheless, his research quickly led him to Mark Glusker, a collector and mechanical engineer living just a few miles from the photographer’s studio who agreed to bring over a few prized pieces. “As we laid them out on tables, Mark pulled off the covers on some of the machines to show me the guts,” Twomey recalls. “Instantly I knew what this project was about: the intricate and complex inner workings of these machines.”

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