From a thread here: http://www.internationalskeptics.com/forums/showthread.php?t=295095
If what we see is what we get, i.e. it’s just a wheel and a pointer as shown, I’d guess a specialised randomiser. The number combinations are odd though.
Looks like it’s randomizing orderings of 3 or 5 items.
It has all possible orderings of 3 objects, but there are 120 orderings of 5 objects and it obviously doesn’t account for all of them. Maybe the subset of those that it shows is a clue.
Wheel of Fortune, from an early season of the show, circa 4000 B.C.
The house only pays off on those not shown?
Given the evident age of this item, what possible use could it have had? I see no way for its divisions to be sensed or used within a machine (e.g., old slot machine or game of chance), so the purpose must be for a human to read the numbers. But why?
There are twelve divisions, as well as twelve holes. Could it be some sort of tool used by clock or watchmakers, some sort of astronomical tool, or some sort of navigational tool?
It looks like an embossing / labeling wheel to me. It could be used to stamp serial number on parts or steel plates. It could be part of a multi-wheel stamper where different wheels could be aligned to produce different strings of numbers. The redundancy could be there to reduce the rotation needed to change numbers or to keep using the wheel even when some numbers wore off.
Here’s the distribution of the 3 digit combinations (all possible combinations are used, but not the same number of each).
321 x 2
213 x 3
231 x 2
312 x 1
123 x 2
132 x 2
Have you not seen Wheel of Fortune - Bronze Age?
Oh, yeah! Didn’t that air back around, um, post five?
Here’s a list of the 5 digit combinations used, along with the 3 digits each is paired with. None of the 5 digit numbers are repeated. Also, the first 2 digits don’t repeat.
34125 - 321
25143 - 213
41325 - 231
51342 - 312
15324 - 123
45312 - 213
53214 - 132
34521 - 321
43251 - 132
24315 - 123
21534 - 231
13524 - 213
Actually, looks like there are two five-digit combos that begin with “34xxx”.
You’re right. I missed that. :o And, interestingly, they’re both paired with 321.
It looks like a version of a horse betting wheel or as stated above wheel of fortune.
Here is a similar, larger version.
I don’t think so. On your wheel it’s all one and two digit numbers from 1 to 60 and there’s only one circle of digits rather than two. The object I linked to has two rows of digits and seems overly complex for the purpose of gambling.
Wheels of fortune tend to have one unique number per ‘slot’. This one uses a completely different scheme.
If it had any kind of cams or keys unique to each position, I’d say part of a slot machine or other mechanical game of chance. But it’s just a wheel with numbers on it, what I’d say is the final readout or position-setting/checking dial of another type of machine.
There doesn’t appear to be any obvious way for it to interface with other equipment. It seems to be on a standalone stand.
Over at internationalskeptics.com the OP says that he may be getting more shots (sides, back, etc.) from the possessor of this thing this evening so those may tell us more.
Well it shows 12 orderings of five, if picked cleverly you could then use the pointer not only as a selector of the section, but of starting point and read 34521 as 52134 if the pointer is on the five, that ups it to 60 orderings, add some rule for picking direction, and I suppose it could show all 120, but I’m not going through the trouble of checking that hypothesis. And it’s odd that one of the orderings for three numbers is repeated three times while another is just given once.
ETA: Never mind. I just looked at the list briefly and found overlaps using this scheme, so there’s no way to make it cover all 120 orderings.
Those wheel of fortune things I’ve seen at carnivals were typically painted wood. This thing looks like cast iron. What are they doing with it that they went to so much trouble to make it? Also, I’m curious about the holes. All the same size and evenly spaced between number sets.