Hand-held Calculators

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Royal Digital III
Sinclair Executive Memory
Commodore C110

Featured Electronic Hand-held Calculators:

As can be seen by studying the Featured Desktop Electronic Calculators section, through the 1960s large numbers of electronics components were required in a calculator. So electronic calculators were then very large, consumed a lot of power, and only AC-powered desktop models were available.

As integrated circuits were developed it was possible to squeeze more and more functionality into fewer and fewer packages, which took up less room. So electronic calculators became smaller and also their power consumption was reduced. The fascinating story of the development of miniature electronics for calculators and the competing companies involved is told in the section "The Race to Make a Pocket Calculator" on this site.

By 1969 several companies had produced AC-powered calculators which used just a handful of integrated circuits which had a low power requirement, such as Sharp of Japan with the QT8-D desktop calculator. Then by replacing the AC power section with rechargeable batteries the first hand-held calculators were produced. Thus the Sharp produced the QT8-B, which was advertised in the U.S.A. in mid-1970, and around the same time Sanyo brought out the ICC-0081 and ICC-82D, and Canon brought out the Pocketronic. All of these models, which are featured here, can be used hand-held and remote from AC power, but are much too large to be called pocket calculators.

However, technology was developing very rapidly and there followed in late 1970/early 1971 much more pocketable models from Canon, Sanyo, another from Sharp, and the first truly pocket calculator, the Busicom LE-120A. The world was astounded when the first pocket electronic calculators became available in the shops and enabled everyone to carry a means to instant answers to their mathematical neads.

Initially the high cost of the leading edge electronics used in the early hand-held calculators meant that the price of these calculators was also very high. Many companies saw the possibility of making a profit and started to produce electronic hand-held calculators. So, over the next few years several thousand models were produced by two to three hundred companies. Some of these companies are obscure and produced only one or two models, whereas a handful of companies survived the plunge in calculator prices of the mid-1970s and continue to produce calculators today.

The alternative to the early, expensive, hand-held electronic calculators was the slide rule, including the Otis-King cylindrical type, and the miniature mechanical calculator such as the Curta. These devices continued to sell into the mid-1970s when the cost of hand-held electronic calculators fell so that they became afordable by all.

The early designs were very varied, and some now appear to be quite exotic. Frequently models were named "Electronic Slide Rules", illustrating that the device was seen as a replacement for the slide-rule.

Featured here are significant hand-held calculators and a selection of typical models.

There are also photographs of many other hand-held electronic calculators in the Hand-held Calculator Photo Library on this site.

For information about the electronics inside the calculators see the Calculator Technology section.
 

Click on a picture below for more details and more, bigger pictures.

The first prototype hand-held calculator

Texas Instruments “Cal-Tech”prototype

Texas Instruments "Cal-Tech"prototype
1967

Four-function. Output printed on paper tape.
Was not produced commercially by Texas Instruments, but was developed into the Canon Pocketronic.

The first battery-powered, hand-held calculators

These first hand-held, battery-powered, models which were developed by Canon, Sanyo, and Sharp were all launched in Japan in 1970. The exact sequence that they went on sale is difficult to establish, but the order here is believed to be correct. Note that they are all bulky and by no means can be considered "pocket calculators" as we now know them.

Canon Pocketronic Pocketronic
Monroe10_1_t

Canon Pocketronic & Monroe 10
1970

Four-function.
Output printed on paper tape.
Two of the first hand-held calculators, based on Texas Instruments technology.

Sanyo ICC-0081 “Mini Calculator”

Sanyo ICC-0081 "Mini Calculator"
1970

Four-function. Has rechargeable cells with built in AC charging unit, amber gas-discharge tubes.
One of the first hand-held calculators

Sanyo ICC-82D

Sanyo ICC-82D
1970

Four-function, amber gas-discharge tubes.
One of the first hand-held calculators

Sharp QT8-B

Sharp QT-8B "micro Compet"
1970

Four-function. Has rechargeable cells and and green vacuum fluorescent discharge (VFD) tubes.
One of the first hand-held calculators

The first truly pocket size electronic calculators
... able to fit in a shirt pocket.

Busicom LE-120A “handy”

Busicom LE-120A HANDY LE
1971

Four-function.
The Busicom LE-120A was the first calculator small enough to be truly described as "pocket-sized", the first calculator using an LED display (12-digits), and the first hand-held calculator using a "calculator on a chip" integrated circuit (made by Mostek).

Busicom HANDY LC

Busicom HANDY LC
1971

Four-function.
The Busicom HANDY LC was a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) version of the LE-120A HANDY LE calculator above. It was never sold commercially.

Busicom LE-120S “Handy”

Busicom LE-120S handy
1971

Four-function.
The Busicom LE-120S was a slightly later and cheaper version of the LE-120A.

Featured hand-held electronic calculators, in approximate chronological order

Sharp EL-8

Sharp EL-8 (aka Compet ELSI-8), Facit 1111, & Addo-X 9364
1971
Four-function.
Vacuum fluorescent display tubes. Calculators using the same electronics.

Minolta Minolcom
1971

Four-function, "Nixie" type tubes.

Brother Pro-Cal 408

Brother PRO-CAL 408
1971

Four-function, vacuum fluorescent display tubes.

Walther ETR3

Walther ETR3
~1971

Four-function, "Nixie"-type display tubes.

Bowmar 901B

Bowmar 901B, also sold as the Commodore (cbm) C110 and the Craig 4501
1971

Four-function.
The first Bowmar calculator, red LED display.

Ragen Microelectronic Calculator
1971/2

Four-function.
Was to be the first sub-$100 calculator, the first Liquid Crystal Display calculator, and the first calculator using CMOS semiconductors: widely announced but never went on sale.

Compucorp 324G Scientist

Compucorp 324G Scientist
1971

Scientific, programmable.
The first portable scientific calculator.

Sharp EL-811, Prinztronic MC85, Prinztronic MC95
1972
Four-function, memory.
Sharp's second hand-held calculator, and versions re-badged for a chain store, vacuum fluorescent display tubes.

Royal Digital III
Royal Digital IV

Royal Digital III and Digital IV
1972

Four-function.
Use electrical stylus instead of keys.
Digital III has a 4-digit (!!!) vacuum fluorescent tube display.
Digital IV has an 8-digit red LED display.

Busicom LE-100A “Handy”

Busicom LE-100A "handy" & NCR 1844
~1972

Four-function.
The Busicom LE-100A is a development of the LE-120A, using a Texas Instruments "calculator on a chip" and 10-digit LED display.

Busicom LE-80A “Handy”

Busicom LE-80A "handy"
~1972

Four-function.
The Busicom LE-80A is an incredibly tiny calculator for this time. It is a development of the LE-120A, using a Texas Instruments "calculator on a chip" and 8-digit LED display.

Hewlett Packard HP-35

Hewlett Packard HP-35
1972

Scientific.
The first hand-held scientific calculator, red LED display.

Canon LE-10

Canon LE-10
1972

Four-function.
Batteries recharged by plugging into base unit, red LED display.

Rapid Data Rapidman 800

Rapid Data Rapidman 800
1972

Four-function.
One of the first sub-$100 / sub-£40 Sterling electronic calculators, red LED display.

Texas Instruments 2500 "Datamath" & similar models
1972

Four-function.
The first of the long line of TI calculators, red LED display.

The first successful hand-held calculator with liquid crystal display (LCD)

Lloyds Accumatic 100

Lloyd's Accumatic 100
1972

Four-function.
The first successful hand-held calculator with Liquid Crystal Display. LCD has reflective numbers.

Sinclair Executive

Sinclair Executive
1972

Four-function.
Very thin, the first calculator to be powered by button cells, red LED display - the first Sinclair calculator.

Casio Mini

Casio Mini
1972

Four-function.
One of the first sub-$100 / sub-£40 Sterling electronic calculators, vacuum fluorescent display tubes.

Sanyo ICC-809

Sanyo ICC-809
~1972

"Portable radio"-shaped case.
Orange gas-discharge display.

Sharp EL-801

Sharp EL-801
1972

Four-function.
First calculator with CMOS integrated circuits, red LED display.

Texas Instruments SR-10

Texas Instruments SR-10
1972

Semi-scientific.
Texas Instrument's first electronic "Slide Rule".

Sperry Remington 661-D

Sperry Remington 661-D & 661
1972/3

Four-function.
6-digit display, vacuum fluorescent display tubes.

Olympia CD 81 / Panasonic JE-855U

Olympia CD 81 / Panasonic JE-855U
1972/3

Four-function, memory.
One of the most stylish & highest quality calculators, vacuum fluorescent display tubes.

APV Mk V

apf Mark V
1972/3

Four-function.
Has battery voltage meter.

Ramsgate M-11

Ramsgate M-11
c1972

Four-function, 10-digit LED display.
From one of the many small companies which manufactured calculators for a year or two.

Berkey/Omega 240

Atlas-Rand 240
Berkey Keystone 370
Berkey/Omega 100
Keystone 88

1972

Four-function, %.
Similar models with Panaplex gas-discharge displays.

Olivetti Divisumma 18
1972

Four-function.
An iconic design. Printed output on thermal paper.

Iain Jones International Addison Mini A
1972/3

Four-function.
Has battery-level meter. From one of the many small companies which manufactured calculators for a year or two.

HP-80

Hewlett-Packard HP-80
1973

Business and financial functions.
The first hand-held business calculator.

Litronix Checkmate

Litronix Checkmate
1973

Four-function.
One of the first calculator models from this LED manufacturer.

Heathkit IC-2009

Heathkit IC-2009
1973

Four-function.
Make it yourself calculator kit, red LED display.

Heathkit IC-2009

MITS 150
1973

Four-function, square root.
Make it yourself calculator kit or bought ready assembled, red LED display.

Also photographs of other MITS calculators.

Summit Ko9V Summit SE88M

Summit Ko9V
~1973

Four-function, constant, red LED display.

Summit SE88M
~1973

Four-function, %, memory, with reciprocal, square, & square root buttons on top, red LED display.
Very small calculators.

Unicom 102

Unicom 102
1973

Four-function.
Company bought by Rockwell before the development of its own extensive range, red LED display.

Victor 85 Tallymate

Victor 85 "Tallymate"
1973

Four-function, with battery-level meter.
By the Victor Comptometer Corporation.

Elka 101

Elka 101
1973

Four-function, memory.
Bulgarian (then a communist state) manufactured calculator using Rockwell integrated circuit.

RFT minrirex 75

RFT minirex 75
1973

Four-function.
East Germany (then a communist state) manufactured calculator using Texas Instruments integrated circuit.
Docks into recharger unit.

Sharp EL-120

Sharp EL-120
~1973

Four-function, counter button.
3-digit display.

The first Successful pocket-sized calculator with liquid crystal display (LCD)

Sharp EL-805

Sharp EL-805
1973

Four-function.
The first pocket-sized LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) calculator.
Uses Sharp's COS (Crystal On Substrate) technology.
Includes details of other early Sharp LCD calculators.

Berkey/Omega 240

Bowmar MX-55 & Hiradastatechnika version
1973

Four-function, %.
A common U.S. calculator and a version made in Hungary.

Hewlett-Packard HP-65
1974

The first hand-held programmable calculator.

Casio fx-10
Sperry-Remington SSR-8

Casio fx-10 & Sperry Remington SSR-8
1974

The first Casio scientific calculator, and the same model made for Sperry-Remington.

Calcu-pen

Calcu-pen
1975

Four-function.
A calculator squeezed into a (rather thick) ball-point pen.

Casio AL-8

Casio AL-8 & family models (AL-8S, AL-10)
1975

The first hand-held calculators to accept and display fractions.

Some popular low-cost calculators

Commodore 776M
Commodore 796M

Commodore (cbm) 776M & 796M
1975 & 1976

Four-function.
Popular low-cost calculators.

Novus 650

Novus 650 "Mathbox"
1975

Four-function.
A minimalist calculator.

Rockwell 8R and varieties
1975

Four-function, %.
Popular low-cost calculator, and varieties produced for other companies.

General Instrument EZ3000

General Instrument EZ3000 and varieties
1975

Four-function.
Calculator produced by integrated circuit manufacturer. Designs sold to the U.S.S.R.

Novus Billfold 91

Check Tronic,
Corvus CheckMaster,
Novus Billfold 91

About 1975/6
Four-function and two-function, bank cheque (check) account balancing calculators and billfold (wallet) calculator.
The Check Tronic and CheckMaster store the balance even when switched off.
The CheckMaster is probably the least capable electronic calculator ever marketed.

UIT 85X

Monte Carlo and similar models
1975

Four-function, %.
Very tiny calculator, with battery pack which plugs directly into a 110V AC outlet.

Texas Instruments Spirit of ‘76

Texas Instruments Spirit of '76
1975

Four-function, %.
Special edition commemorating the bicentenary of the independence of the U.S.A.

Two of the first electronic calculator watches

Pulsar

Pulsar
1975

The first LED calculator watch.

Compuchron

Compuchron
1976

Calculator watch.

Adler Lady

Adler Lady and Sir
~1976

Four-function, %.
Tiny, stylish calculators for ladies and gentlemen.

Elektronika B318A
Elektronika C3-15

Elektronika B3-18 & Elektronika C3-15
1976-1977

Scientific functions.
The first Soviet-made scientific hand-held calculators.

Speech +

Telesensory Systems Speech+ & other Speaking Calculators
1976

The first speaking calculator, designed for the visually impaired, and one of the first consumer products with speech synthesis.

”Standard Type 1”

'Standard Type 1'
~1976

Popular low-cost calculator, sold under many names.

The first electronic calculator with solar cells

Sharp EL-8026

Sharp EL-8026 "Sun Man"
1976

Four-function, memory square root.
The first electronic calculator with solar cells, for recharging the batteries.

TI-30

Texas Instruments TI30
1977

Popular low-cost calculator.

Canon Multi 8
~1977

Calculator with 2 lines of display.

Casio ST1
~1977

Combined Stopwatch and Calculator.

cbm S61

Commodore S61
1977

Statistical calculator with 61 keys.

Sinclair Wrist Calculator
Quick-Check

Sinclair Wrist Calculator & Quik-Check
1977

Tiny calculators for wearing on the wrist.

Kosmos I
Kosmos Astro

Kosmos I
1977

Four-function calculator and biorhythm computer.

Kosmos Astro
Four-function calculator and astrological predictor.

”Standard Type 1”

Hanimex Calculator-Recorder
~1977

Calculator and Mini-Cassette Recorder combined.

Five models of navigation calculators

Specialized Electronics Corporation Navtronic 16

Specialized Electronics Corporation Navtronic 16
~1976

Navigation functions.
Specialist navigation calculator using dedicated electronics.

Tamaya NC-2

Tamaya NC-2
~1976

Scientific and astro navigation functions.
Specialist navigation calculator using dedicated electronics.

Tamaya NC-77

Tamaya NC-77
1978 - 1991

Scientific and astro navigation functions.
Specialist navigation calculator using dedicated electronics. Very long production run.

Commodore N-60

Commodore N-60
~1978

Navigation functions.
Specialist navigation calculator using dedicated electronics.

Texas Instruments Navigatronic

Texas Instruments Navigatronic
~1978

Scientific and navigation functions.
General-purpose calculator fitted with Navigation library module.

TI 58

Texas Instruments TI 58
1977

Scientific programmable.
Replaceable program memory module allows calculator to be customised.

Three special-function calculators

USMC Harrier Calculator

Texas Instruments USMC Harrier VSTOL/REST Calculator
~1978
Functions for use with flying the McDonell-Douglas AV-8A "Harrier" vertical/short take-off and land aircraft flown by the United States Marine Corp.
Texas Instruments TI 58 with customised program module.

Alianz insurance calculator

Texas Instruments Alianz insurance calculator
~1978
Functions for insurance calculations.
Texas Instruments TI 58 with customised program module.

Sandvik Coromant

Sandvik Coromant 842S
~1978

Has specialist functions for metal cutting calculations.

"Standard Type 2"

'Standard Type 2'
~1978

Popular low-cost calculator, sold under many names.

Panasonic JE-8210U “Electronic Ruler”

Panasonic JE-8210U "Electronic Ruler"
~1978

Calculator and length measurement.

The first credit card sized electronic calculator

Teal Photon

Casio Mini Card LC-78
1978

The first credit card sized calculator.

One of the first solar-powered electronic calculators

Teal Photon

Teal Photon
1978

One of the first solar-powered calculators, and so one of the first electronic calculators without an on/off switch!

Feet and Inches calculators

Addometer
SCAT The Dimension

Addometer and SCAT "The Dimension"
~1980
Feet & Inches calculator

SCAT the solution

SCAT specialist calculators
~1980
Including a Feet & Inches calculator and a Chemical Solutions and Dilutions calculator.

Three solar-cell powered, almost credit-card sized calculators

Sharp EL-826

Sharp EL-826
~1980

Four-function, memory, square root.
An early solar-cell powered, almost credit-card sized LCD calculator. Solar-cell is high-efficiency, hence small.

Sharp EL-825

Sharp EL-825
~1980

Four-function, memory, square root.
An early solar-cell powered, credit-card sized LCD calculator.

Sanyo CX-1

Sanyo CX-1
~1980

Four-function, memory, square root.
An early solar-cell powered, almost credit-card sized LCD calculator. Solar-cell is high-efficiency "Amorton" amorphous silicon, hence small.

Late LED and VFD display calculators

Elektronika MK33

Elektronika MK-33
1980s-1990s

4 function, %, memory, square root.
Very late example of a red LED display calculator, made in the Soviet Union.
Also details of late vacuum-fluorescent display calculators MK57A and MK61.

1980 signalled the end of the of the years of rapid development in calculator technology. Now you could have a credit-card sized, solar powered calculator - something unthinkable ten years earlier.

1980 also saw the appearance of the first pocket computer - something that would have been totally incredible ten years earlier:

The first pocket computer

This review of the early development of the pocket calculator ends in 1980 with the introduction of the Sharp PC-1211, the first pocket computer programmable in a high-level language. It demostrates the progress made in the 10 years from the first hand-held calculators in 1970.

Sharp PC-1211 / Tandy TRS80 PC-1

Sharp PC-1210 and Sharp PC-1211 / Radio Shack / Tandy TRS80 PC-1
1980

Calculator with Basic language, programmable.
The first pocket computers.

Only a small sample of vintage electronic hand-held calculators is shown here. There were many more models from many manufacturers, as shown in the Photograph Library.

For featured British calculators, including models from Advance, Decimo, Prinztronic, and Sinclair, see the British Calculators section.

For photographs of other hand-held electronic calculators see the Hand-held Calculator Photo Library.

To see more calculators from companies that only produced one or two models see the article "One Hit Wonders" in the Collecting Calculators section of this site.

During the period 1971-1976 there was a great reduction in the size of pocket calculators, the number of electronic components inside, and most sigificantly the cost.This lead to a great reduction in the number of manufacturers, and more standardisation of design.

An article in the journal New Scientist from May 1973, in the middle of this turbulent period in calculator development, brings home the situation in the pocket calculator market at this time:
"
The past 18 months has seen the list price of the cheapest pocket calculator in Britain more than halved—down, in fact, from £79 [US£185] to £31 [US$73]. And while the pocket calculator is not yet a consumer durable, it is clearly destined to become as common around the office and household as, say, a portable typewriter or small transistor radio. There is almost no bottom limit to how cheap a simple electronic calculator could cost–one sells in Hong Kong today for £7 [US$16.50] !  The problem is how to sell such a product … At such a price, the profit margin is likely to be much too small to interest departmental stores or even mail order firms. …
 … There are still too many suppliers in the pocket calculator business—especially in the £50 [US$115] to £80 [US$190] range—to allow any one manufacturer to achieve a major breakthrough in sales, and hence allow prices to be brought down economically. Instead the present competition has resulted in a price war, which eventually will lead only to fewer manufacturers being left in the market."

The major manufacturers who survived this period, for example Casio, Hewlett Packard, Sharp, Texas Instruments, produced quality calculators with extra functionality. Cheap, basic, calculators were produced in low cost countries, and were re-badged for the major companies.

For further information about the development of calculators and calculator companies go to the section "The Calculator Business" on this site.

Examples of Mechanical Hand-held Calculators

For comparison, here are examples of mechanical hand-held calculators which competed against the hand-held electronic calculators into the 1970s.

Click on a picture for more details and more bigger pictures.

Curta I

Curta I

Curta I

Slide Rule

Otis King Model L

Otis King Model L
Cylindrical slide rule.

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© Text & photographs copyright Nigel Tout   2000-2014 except where noted otherwise.