At the birth of the United States, the new nation faced a problem. How do you make a crazy new idea — power coming not from a king, but from the people — a reality? There was no handbook; the framers of the Constitution had to just kind of make it up. They landed on the idea of a census. You count the people in each state, and apportion power thusly. A great idea, and certainly a totally new one. But also one that, over the centuries, led to a multitude of unforeseen crises. It turned out that, to keep representative democracy on the rails required some technical innovations — and led to the invention of a magnificent, and very significant, machine.