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Rockwell, USA.

In 1967 the aircraft manufacturer North American Aviation amalgamated with the engineering company Rockwell Standard to form North American Rockwell Corp.  In 1973 the company was renamed Rockwell International.

Rockwell's Autonetics division was a leading developer of integrated circuits, especially for defence systems, and from it was formed North-American Rockwell Microelectronics Corporation (NRMEC).  In the late 1960s Autonetics diversified into calculator integrated circuits and was a pioneer in manufacturing LSI MOS calculator ICs, used in early Sharp Calculators.  The page on the Sharp QT-8D tells more of this story.

In mid-1972 Rockwell started to ship LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) calculators to Lloyds, Sears Roebuck and Rapid Data, which were sold under their names[1]: "North American Rockwell will begin delivering in June electronic calculators that are expected to sell to the consumer for about $100.  Among the customers is Sears Roebuck.  The calculators, which will have unique features and case designs for individual customers, will use liquid crystal displays and MOS ICs manufactured by NRMEC—North American Rockwell Microelectronics Co.
    NR has contracts for more than 150,000 machines with Sears, Lloyd of California, Logic Data of Chicago, and others to be announced.  And Donn L. Williams, president of NR's Electronics group, says that worldwide sales are expected to total at least a million units a year"
.  These were the first successful use of LCDs in calculators - See the Lloyd's Accumatic 100 and the Rapid Data Rapidman LC1208, Sears C1 & Sears M12.

American Micro-systems Inc., another semiconductor manufacturer, had moved into manufacturing and marketing complete calculators under the trade name Unicom (see photograph below).  Unicom was bought by Rockwell in 1972 as part of its diversification programme[2]: "North American Rockwell Corp. will acquire Unicom Systems Inc. from American Micro-systems Inc. under a recent agreement.  Unicom, now 88% owned by MOS-maker AMI, designs and distributes electronic office equipment, including calculators.  This is NR's first venture into the retail distribution and service area.
    Unicom, only a few years old, distributes lines from two Japanese and one U.S. company.  NR says that, initially at least, Unicom will retain its identity.  In particular, it won't have any special relationship with North American Rockwell Microelectronics Co., a major manufacturer of calculator MOS chips."
  Initially, calculators continued to be sold under the Unicom name, but this was soon changed to the Rockwell name.

The journal 'Electronics' reported in 1973[3]:
   "Aerospace companies in the West, seeking broader markets, are trolling in such flood tides as calculators, digital wristwatches, and automation.  And they've found they can reach the necessary marketing depth by tying in with mass merchandisers.
   The champion of up, down, and sideways integration is Rockwell International's Electronics group, which evolved out of the old Autonetics division of North American Aviation, Anaheim, Calif.  The group expects sales around $500 million this year, with a 20% commercial—twice lastyear's percentage.  A 50-50 mix is expected in five years.
   Rockwell's calculator business dates to 1967, when a contract for MOS chips came from Sharp Corp. of Japan (then Hayakawa Electric Co.).  Last year it started selling assembled calculators through mail-order houses and other mass distributors.  Now, the equipment division has a backlog of 600,000, and it expects to produce 1 million in the fiscal year that started this month.  Production capacity of 75,000 a month will be doubled by a new plant in Nogales, Mexico.
   The equipment division makes low-cost desktop calculators with eight-digit liquid-crystal displays—considered non-competitive with conventional calculators sold by the MOS Device division's chip customers.  In the fall, however, several hand-held types will be made, including a low-cost battery model and an electronic slide rule.  ...
   ... Last year, the Electronics group acquired Unicom Systems Inc., Cupertinio, Calif., which distributes business machines and calculators through its own stores, other dealers, and department stores.  In July, Rockwell bought the business-machines subsidiaries of Lamson Industries, and English calculator distributor."

In 1973 Rockwell bought out the Sumlock-Anita company from Lamson Industries, the largest British calculator manufacturer, to which it had been supplying calculator integrated circuits.  Manufacture of ANITA calculators, also with Rockwell branding, continued at the Sumlock-Anita factory in Portsmouth, in southern England, where some of the Rockwell hand-held calculators were also manufactured.

Rockwell also had a consumer electronics subsidiary called Lloyd's Electronics[4] which sold a wide range of models of its Accumatic calculators.  A few of these were manufactured by Rockwell though most were sourced from Asia.

Many Rockwell hand-held calculators share a very distinctive casing design, as in the 8R below.  These models were very successful and are common.  The earlier models were mainly assembled in Mexico, though there was some assembly in England, but later models originate from Hong Kong and Japan.  Rockwell also manufactured some desktop models, but these are not very common.

In November 1976, the journal Business Week reported[5] "Over the past five years , Rockwell's calculator sales went from zero to $130 million a year.  But the company has lost money due to industry price cutting.  Japanese competitors are making deep inroads now.
Says Al Rockwell: "If they [Japan] come along and say 'We can sell you a calculator for half of what you can make it for', we ought to take a look at that."  Rockwell hopes that the lower prices today are merely an "aberration".  However, the company has closed two of its three calculator plants, fired half of its 2,000 workers, and claims it is now in fighting trim."

Around 1977, during the great slump in calculator prices, Rockwell completely quit consumer electronics, including calculator manufacture, to concentrate on its core aviation, military, and industrial business, including the Space Shuttle.


Examples of Rockwell calculators

Lloyd's Accumatic 100

Launched in 1972 by this Rockwell subsidiary, this model was one of the first LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) calculators.

Assembled in Mexico by Rockwell.

This is a featured calculator.

Unicom 102.

Calculator made by American Micro-systems Inc. subsidiary Unicom.  The company was bought by Rockwell in 1972.  Unicom models were gradually phased out in favour of Rockwell models.

This is a featured calculator.

Rockwell 8R

Rockwell 8R.

A very common calculator, together with the 18R, of the mid-1970s.

This is a featured calculator.

Rockwell 22K

Rockwell 22K

One of a range of classy, slim, wallet-style Rockwell calculators, from the mid-1970s, manufactured in Asia.

Rockwell 920

Rockwell 920.

Programmable, printing calculator, storing programs on magnetic cards. Assembled in Mexico it dates from the mid 1970s.

This is a featured calculator.

Anita 201

Anita 201

This is similar to the Unicom 201.  On the label it says "Rockwell International. Sumlock Anita Ltd, Uxbridge, England. Assembled in Mexico Primarily of United States components."

Rockwell bought the British calculator manufacturer Sumlock-Anita in 1973.  There is more information about Sumlock-Anita and the world's first desktop electronic calcultors in the Calculator Companies section of this site.

Anita 1211

Rockwell-Anita 1211

One of a range of desktop calculators made in England in the mid-1970s after Rockwell bought out Sumlock-Anita.

For further photographs of:



  1. "Sears to sell $100 NR calculator", Electronics, March 27, 1972.
  2. "NR to buy Unicom", Electronics, July 17, 1972, p34.
  3. "Wescon", Electronics, August 30, 1973, p112.
  4. Milton, R., Beaumont, A.J. (1974), "Electronic Calculator Markets and Suppliers", 2nd. ed., Finresearch Series, London: Ovum, 71.
  5. "Rockwell walks a rough road to profits", Business Week, November 3 1975, p92.

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Text & photographs copyright, except where stated otherwise, © Nigel Tout 2000-2024.