Electronic Calculators—Desktop
Desktop Calculators with Chips

A collection of desktop electronic calculators in the Division of Medicine and Science at the National Museum of American History.

The bulky electronic calculators built in the 1960s included the circuits required to carry out the arithmetic they performed and the programs they ran. With the invention and rapidly decreasing price of integrated circuits, particularly chips, smaller, lighter, cheaper calculators were possible. Some of these, like the MITS 816, clearly were designed to sit on a desktop. Others might be carried about easily. Those listed here were too broad, too deep, or otherwise so designed so that they would not fit easily in the pocket. Most of them did not print results, although Unisonic, Texas Instruments, and Canon offered printing calculators.

The desktop electronic calculators described in the previous section were generally designed and built within a single country, be it Great Britain, the United States, or Japan. Calculators built with integrated circuits were quite different. Chips might be designed in one country, fabricated in another, and incorporated into calculators in a third. For example, a Radio Shack EC-2001 electronic calculator from the collections has a chip designed by the American firm of Texas Instruments and manufactured in the Philipines. The calculator was assembled in Taiwan and sold by the American company Radio Shack.

At times, the product of one manufacturer was sold by several firms, each placing their own brand name on it. The Unisonic Xl-101 and Lloyd's E680-3 are virtually identical to the Radio Shack EC-2001 just mentioned. The chips in the two former products apparently were made in the United States, with assembly of the calculators in Taiwan.

By the 1980s, Friden, Marchant, and NCR were out of the business of selling calculators. Monroe, one of few American calculating machine companies to make the transition to the electronic era successfully, sold imported devices. Hence the beginning of a new form of computing device signaled the end of an era.