From Desktops to Handhelds

Tandy Pocket Computer PC-8

This Sharp-designed “computer” improved on programmable calculators by having a full keyboard and the BASIC programming language.

From Desktops to Handhelds

Integrated circuits allowed electronic calculators to shrink. At Texas Instruments, integrated circuit pioneer Jack Kilby designed the first hand-held, four-function calculator in 1967.

Size wasn’t the only thing shrinking. The first mass market handheld, the Bowmar Brain, cost $245 in 1971. Within a decade, similar calculators sold for $10!

Jack Kilby with the first palm-sized calculator

Kilby’s calculator used a tiny paper-tape printer as a display. It showed the potential of integrated circuits in consumer goods.

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TI-59 Programmable calculator

This could hold 960-step programs written in a primitive language. It used both magnetic cards and removable memory modules.

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Casio Pocket-Mini P-811 calculator

Inexpensive calculators like this drove prices below $10 in the mid-1970s.

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HP-97 printing programmable calculator

This calculator was supported by a large library of programs for math, engineering, navigation, surveying and games.

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Sharp EL-805 calculator

This was the first pocket calculator with an easy-to-read liquid-crystal display instead of red LEDs.

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Canon LS-701II FlashCard calculator

A solar powered, credit card size calculator 1/8” (3 mm) thick.

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Casio Mini-Printer calculator

This was based on Texas Instrument’s 1967 prototype.

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Busicom LE-120A (“HANDY-LE”) advertisement

Busicom tailored this advertisement for status and value conscious businessmen. Another Busicom ad used a popular Japanese comedian to make the calculator seem approachable and easy to use.

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TI PC-100A Printer and Security Cradle

The TI-59 calculator could hold 960-step programs written in a primitive language. It used both magnetic cards and removable memory modules.

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This speaking calculator, designed for the blind, had a 24-word vocabulary. It came with the instruction manual on an audio cassette tape.

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Rockwell 8R calculator

The 8R included a percentage key, which soon became standard for four-function calculators.

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HP-19B Business Consultant

This business calculator did mortgage and other financial calculations. It was not programmable, but it had a versatile “solve” function.

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HP-01 digital wristwatch calculator

Having 6 integrated circuits with 38,000 transistors, this was a milestone of miniaturization. These are now prized by collectors.

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Bowmar MX55 Personal Calculator ("Bowmar Brain")

The “Brain” used red LED displays and a calculator chip from Western Digital. Licensed versions were built in Communist Hungary. Bowmar, perhaps the largest calculator manufacturer in 1973, was bankrupt by 1975.

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Nestler-matho 500 Data Bank

Nestler was a German slide rule manufacturer that survived – by making promotional trinkets like this calculator give-away for Ardent Computers.

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