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Ultra low-tech scale accurately weighs small items

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January 26, 2011

The MP4000 Personal Post Office is a non-digital, non-electronic, portable scale, based on...

The MP4000 Personal Post Office is a non-digital, non-electronic, portable scale, based on a century-old design

Although we hear about amazing advances in high technology every day, it’s often the really low-tech ones that most cause us to say “Why didn’t I think of that?”. A case in point is the MP4000 Personal Post Office portable scale – a product that's been around in its current incarnation since the 70s, but that we still thought was worth a mention. Designed primarily for weighing letters in order to determine postage, the non-digital, non-electronic, and barely even mechanical little gizmo is nonetheless accurate enough that its use has been approved by the US Postal Service.

First of all, if you think the little scale looks charmingly retro, that could be because it's based on a design that dates back approximately one hundred years. Pocket scales that utilized a similar principle were in use as long ago as 1600.

To operate the MP4000, users hold it by a top-mounted ring, and attach their letter or other payload to an alligator clip on one side. This causes the scale to tip to that side. A loosely-mounted indicator needle hangs on the other side of the device, and will always point straight down due to the force of gravity. To obtain the weight of their item, users simply see which of the engraved numerical values that needle lines up with, once the scale has tipped.

Figures are listed in imperial on one side, and metric on the other, and go up to 4 ounces/100 grams. The heftier MP8000 Postagemiser model goes up to 8 ounces, or 200 grams.

Besides its role as a letter-weigher, the MP4000 has reportedly also found use in fields such as home brewing, field biology, cooking, and police work. It’s available online for US$4.75 plus shipping, which includes a current U.S. and international postage rate card. The MP8000 costs $10.95.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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9 Comments

Could reduce the number of parts and simplify by a string supporting the load doubling as an indicator

Wayne

Crash
26th January, 2011 @ 05:13 pm PST

"or head to your nearest bong shop!"

Mic
26th January, 2011 @ 05:44 pm PST

Gee, looks just like the record arm scale I bought in 1963....

Druid
27th January, 2011 @ 09:23 am PST

Not so new. I received a scale very similar as a give away when visiting Statmos Lindell in Jonkoping Sweden 50 years ago. Well it was blue. BTW it still works.

Lennart Thornros
27th January, 2011 @ 09:48 am PST

Yes these have been around for a long time. The US post office used to sell these - maybe they still do. I have used one for years. Don't know how long ago I bought it but it comes in a little case with a postage rate card which listed first class mail at 10 cents per ounce. And by the way, I use it for more than just checking postage and it is indeed accurate and pleasingly simple in design and function.

longhawl
27th January, 2011 @ 09:54 am PST

Good thinking, Crash. Turn the scale round, so the shape is like the letter C, with the pivot near the top end.

windykites1
27th January, 2011 @ 10:40 am PST

Good to weigh small things at postoffices and other places.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Anumakonda Jagadeesh
27th January, 2011 @ 08:23 pm PST

I use one of these to weigh the amount of hops I'm adding to my latest batch of beer!

Ed
3rd February, 2011 @ 02:08 pm PST

Wayne said, "simplify by a string supporting the load doubling as an indicator."

This would only work if relocating the scale portion is balanced out with additional counter-weight. All scales of the pivot type (like this one) work on that principle. Good idea. Another idea would be a small counter-balance that could screw into the side of the cantilever if adding or removing the small tray that the four strings in the picture are supporting.

Will, the tink
9th February, 2011 @ 03:39 pm PST
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