In July 1845, British curiosity-seekers headed to London’s Egyptian Hall to try out the novelty of the summer. For the price of one shilling, they could stand in front of a wooden bureau, pull a lever, and look behind a panel where six drums, bristling with metal spokes, revolved. At the end of its “grinding,” what it produced was not a numeric computation or a row of fruit symbols, but something quite different: a polished line of Latin poetry.
This strange gadget, a Victorian ancestor of the computer, was called the Eureka.
The Eureka was the brainchild, and obsession, of a man in southwest England named John Clark.