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The hodometer of Archimedes (3rd c. B.C.) – The first… road distance calculator

It was a mechanism for the accurate measurement of road distance (precursor to the taximetre). It consisted of a box with cooperating worm gears and gearwheels attached to a moving vehicle. One axial rod on the hub of one of the vehicle’s wheels carried the motion to the first eight-toothed (gear) wheel in the box, while the calibrated discs on the outer top surface of the box which were incorporated on the axles indicated the distance travelled. The ratio in the proposed Heron’s construction is 1:8:30:30:30, so a full rotation of the last disc corresponded to 216.000 revolutions of the vehicle’s wheels. By the wheels’ diametre of 1.60 metres the distance is 1.080 kilometres. In a variation of the device one calibrated disc had radial holes with spherules. When one of the holes was aligned with a corresponding hole of the box, a spherule fell into a metal vessel offering easy measurement of the distance. Archimedes is probably the inventor of this device.

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