Calculator Time-line

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Chronology of calculator developments.

Year

Major
Development

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 nines-complement 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 key-driven 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 pin-wheel calculator.

 

1874

 

W.T. Odhner in Sweden independently develops the pin-wheel calculator, the first of the long series of Odhner calculators Odhner. 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 key-driven 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 Comptometer.

 

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 adding-listing machine was the first of its type to use only ten keys - first 10-key add-lister.

 

1900
-
1975

Steady development of mechanical calculators - size reduction, electric motor drive, added features (eg. automatic multiplication & division).

Madas 20BZS Madas 20BZS, a typical electrically driven, stepped-gear calculator with automatic multiplication and division.

 

1948

 

Curta Curta miniature hand-held 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 Anita Mk VII for the continental European market and the Anita Mk 8 Anita Mk 8 for other markets. These models used cold-cathode vacuum tubes and numerical display ("Nixie" type) tubes.

1962

Development work on transistorised desktop calculators.

 

The Philips company shows prototype 3-function (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
-
1964

First commercial transistorised desktop calculators.

 

First commercial all-transistor desktop calculators: Friden EC130 & EC132 Friden EC132,

Mathatron, IME 84 IME 84,

Sharp CS10A Sharp CS10A.

Prices comparable to that of family cars.

1965

Start of development of hand-held electronic calculators.

 

Texas Instruments starts development work on a hand-held calculator - the "Cal-Tech".

1969

First battery powered, hand-held, electronic calculator.

 

First calculator using just LSI (Large Scale Integration) chips - Sharp QT-8D Sharp QT-8D, with ICs by Rockwell. Size & weight much reduced, calculator now portable.

First battery powered, hand-held calculator - Sharp QT-8B Sharp QT-8B.

Green fluorescent tube displays introduced .

1970

Hand-held calculators take off.

First shirt pocket sized electronic calculator.

All very expensive.

 

Some of the first hand-held calculators:
Canon Pocketronic Canon Pocketronic,

Sanyo ICC-0081 Sanyo ICC-0081,

Sharp EL-8 Sharp EL-8, but very expensive.

First use of "calculator on a chip" introduced by Mostek of Dallas - used in Busicom Junior Busicom Junior (desk calculator) and allows the production of the first shirt pocket sized electronic calculator, the Busicom LE-120A Busicom LE-120A.

First use of LED (Light Emitting Diode) displays used in Busicom LE-120A.

1971

First calculator to use a microprocessor.

 

First microprocessor - Intel 4004 - was designed for and used in Busicom 141-PF desk calculatorBusicom 141-PF.

1972

Rapid development of electronic calculators, and reduction in price.

 

First scientific pocket calculator introduced - Hewlet-Packard HP35 Hewlet-Packard HP35.

Ultra-thin Sinclair Executive  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 silver-reflective numbers, including:
Lloyds Accumatic 100 Lloyds Accumatic 100,

Rapidman 1208LC Rapidman 1208LC.

The Sharp EL-801 Sharp EL-801 sees the first use of C-MOS (Complementary Metal-oxide Semiconductor) integrated circuits in a calculator.

1973

 

 

First Sharp "COS" (Crystal on Substrate) reflective LCD calculators, including EL-805S Sharp EL-805S.

1974

 

 

Texas Instruments awarded patent for "miniature electronic calculator", based on the "CalTech" (see 1965).

The Hewlett Packard HP65Hewlett Packard HP65 is the first hand-held programmable calculator.

1975

Mechanical calculator manufacture has practically ceased.
Mass production makes electronic calculators very cheap.

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 solar-powered and first credit card sized calculators.

 

The first solar powered calculators were introduced, the Royal Solar 1, Teal Photon Teal Photon , and Sharp EL-8028.

The Casio Mini Card LC-78 Casio Mini Card LC-78 is the first credit card sized calculator.

1980

First hand-held computer

 

The Sharp PC1211 / Tandy TRS80 PC-1 Sharp PC1211 is the first hand-held 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.

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