Can you identify these pieces of mystery technology?

Illustration for article titled Can you identify these pieces of mystery technology?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology doesn't just produce technical specifications for everything from wifi to voting machines - they also have a digital archive devoted to the study of early technology. But they need your help to identify some of the objects they've collected.

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In a rare move, NIST has asked the public to help identify what several early machines were used for - mostly in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. In many cases, they know what the machines do, but aren't sure how they are used or who would have used them. In other cases, it's really a mystery what the devices are at all (such as the cylinder with a knob on top). If you have some expertise, or just love to look at pictures of old technology, you should definitely check out NIST's page devoted to these mystery items. And be sure to browse NIST's digital archives, especially if you need some steampunk inspirations. (Spotted on PopSci)

Illustration for article titled Can you identify these pieces of mystery technology?
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Illustration for article titled Can you identify these pieces of mystery technology?
Illustration for article titled Can you identify these pieces of mystery technology?
Illustration for article titled Can you identify these pieces of mystery technology?
Illustration for article titled Can you identify these pieces of mystery technology?
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DISCUSSION

KnaveOfDiamonds
KnaveOfDiamonds

The first pictured device had another picture shown, here, where there was also a pair of terminals for Z. That's the variable typically used for impedance, but I don't think that makes sense, here. I think it's some kind of early multimeter. You hook it right into the circuit with the B and N terminals, and then you adjust the current or resistance settings until you get no voltage across the Z terminal... or something like that. Maybe it was meant to be an instrument more precise than the galvanometer based ones of the time (or an attempt to make a more precise galvanometer based one).

EDIT: You only need to wire a multimeter into a circuit with a single terminal. This could be doing something weird, though, like using a bridge circuit.