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Chronology of calculator developments. 

Year 
Major 
Mechanical Calculators 
Electronic Calculators 
Ancient times 

The abacus is the main aid to calculation. 

c1600 

"Napier's bones" invented by John Napier for multiplication, based on the ancient numerical scheme known as the Arabian lattice. 

1620 
Slide rule. 
William Gunter developed a logarithmic rule for multiplication and division using dividers, which was the forerunner of the slide rule. 

1622 

William Oughtred invented the circular slide rule, and in 1633 described the rectilinear version. 

1623 
First mechanical calculator. 
Willhelm Schickard invented the "Calculating Clock", the first mechanical calculator. It used a version of Napier's bones for multiplication with a mechanical adding/subtracting calculator based on gears, with mutilated gears for carry. 

1642 

Blaise Pascal started to develop a mechanical calculator  the Pascaline. Capable of addition, subtraction was performed by ninescomplement addition, and multiplication was performed by repeated additions and subtractions. It had shortcomings and failed to sell. 

c1673 

Gottfried Leibniz developed the Stepped Reckoner using stepped gear wheels. Performed the 4 functions, but worked erratically due to an error in the carry mechanism, none sold. 

1820 

Charles Xavier Thomas's Arithmometer. 

1851 

Victor Schilt exhibited a keydriven adding machine at the Crystal Palace Exposition in London. 

1853 

The Scheutz Difference Engine completed: the world's first printing calculator. 

1872 
Start of period of development of commercially successful mechanical calculators. 
Frank Baldwin in the USA invents the pinwheel calculator. 

1874 

W.T. Odhner in Sweden independently develops the pinwheel calculator, the first of the long series of Odhner calculators . Since then, many calculating machines have used the same principle. 

1878 

The first direct multiplication machine was built by Raymond Verea. 

1884 

Dorr E. Felt invents the Comptometer, the first succesfull keydriven adding and calculating machine. In 1886 he joined with Robert Tarrant to form the Felt & Tarrant Manufacturing Company which went on to make thousands of Comptometers . 

1891 

William S. Burroughs began commercial manufacture of his printing adding calculator. 

1893 

Millionaire calculator introduced. It allowed direct multiplication by any digit  "one turn of the crank for each figure in the multiplier". 

1902 

The Dalton addinglisting machine was the first of its type to use only ten keys  first 10key addlister. 

1900 
Steady development of mechanical calculators  size reduction, electric motor drive, added features (eg. automatic multiplication & division). 
Madas 20BZS , a typical electrically driven, steppedgear calculator with automatic multiplication and division. 

1948 

Curta miniature handheld mechanical calculator introduced. One of the few major innovations in mechanical calculators in the mid 20th century. 

1961 
The first electronic desktop calculators. They use vacuum tubes. 

The world's first electronic desktop calculators were announced by the Bell Punch Co., Uxbridge, England  the Anita Mk VII for the continental European market and the Anita Mk 8 for other markets. These models used coldcathode vacuum tubes and numerical display ("Nixie" type) tubes. 
1962 
Development work on transistorised desktop calculators. 

The Philips company shows prototype 3function (no division) transistor desk calculator and electronic "Comptometer" type machines. These were to demonstrate what could be achieved with Philips semiconductors and were not sold commercially 
1963 
First commercial transistorised desktop calculators. 

First commercial alltransistor desktop calculators: Friden EC130 & EC132 , Mathatron, IME 84 , Prices comparable to that of family cars. 
1965 
Start of development of handheld electronic calculators. 

Texas Instruments starts development work on a handheld calculator  the "CalTech". 
1969 
First battery powered, handheld, electronic calculator. 

First calculator using just LSI (Large Scale Integration) chips  Sharp QT8D , with ICs by Rockwell. Size & weight much reduced, calculator now portable. First battery powered, handheld calculator  Sharp QT8B . Green fluorescent tube displays introduced . 
1970 
Handheld calculators take off. First shirt pocket sized electronic calculator. All very expensive. 

Some of the first handheld calculators: Sanyo ICC0081 , Sharp EL8 , but very expensive. First use of "calculator on a chip" introduced by Mostek of Dallas  used in Busicom Junior (desk calculator) and allows the production of the first shirt pocket sized electronic calculator, the Busicom LE120A . First use of LED (Light Emitting Diode) displays used in Busicom LE120A. 
1971 
First calculator to use a microprocessor. 

First microprocessor  Intel 4004  was designed for and used in Busicom 141PF desk calculator. 
1972 
Rapid development of electronic calculators, and reduction in price. 

First scientific pocket calculator introduced  HewletPackard HP35 . Ultrathin Sinclair Executive launched. Many new companies entering the calculator business and prices dropping rapidly. LCD (Liquid Crystal Device) displays appear briefly in a version giving silverreflective numbers, including: The Sharp EL801 sees the first use of CMOS (Complementary Metaloxide Semiconductor) integrated circuits in a calculator. 
1973 


First Sharp "COS" (Crystal on Substrate) reflective LCD calculators, including EL805S . 
1974 


Texas Instruments awarded patent for "miniature electronic calculator", based on the "CalTech" (see 1965). The Hewlett Packard HP65 is the first handheld programmable calculator. 
1975 
Mechanical calculator manufacture has practically ceased. 
Mechanical calculator sales practically zero. 
Price of basic pocket calculators now very low, many companies leave the market due to lack of profits. 
1976 


LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) displays (with black numbers) taking over from red LED (Light Emitting Diode) and green fluorescent tube displays in calculators due to their very low power consumption, large numbers, and high contrast. 
1978 
First solarpowered and first credit card sized calculators. 

The first solar powered calculators were introduced, the Royal Solar 1, Teal Photon , and Sharp EL8028. The Casio Mini Card LC78 is the first credit card sized calculator. 
1980 
First handheld computer 

The Sharp PC1211 / Tandy TRS80 PC1 is the first handheld computer; it has a QWERTY keypad and runs the BASIC language. 
For further information on the development of the pocket electronic calculator see the articles "Evolution of Today's Calculator" and "The History of Pocket Electronic Calculators" in the Collecting Calculators section of this site. There are many other articles on the development of calculators in this section.
Vintage Calculators
© Text & photographs copyright Nigel Tout 20002015 except where noted otherwise.