Radio Shack EC-281 Handheld Electronic Calculator

Radio Shack introduced this handheld electronic calculator in its 1978 catalog as an “amazing low-cost scientific” device, costing only $29.95. The calculator has a tan and brown plastic case with forty-one rectangular plastic keys. These include ten digit keys, a total key, four arithmetic function keys, five memory keys, a key for powers, a pi key, and a change sign key. Further keys include EE, CN, %, inverse, and two bracket keys. Above this are natural log, log to base ten, exponent, powers of ten, square root, and squaring keys. The top row of keys has a clear/clear entry key, an arc key, a sine key, a cosine key, and a tangent key. Switches above this are for entering angles as degrees or radians and for on/off.
Behind this is an eight-digit vacuum fluorescent display. Text above it reads: Radio Shack.
A jack for a power adapter is along the back edge.
At the base of the back is a compartment for four AA batteries. A sticker above this reads: CAT. NO. 65-641 (/) MODEL EC-281 (/) Radio Shack (/) A DIVISION OF TANDY CORPORATION (/) DC 6V (“AA” CELL X 4) (/) FOR 120V AC OPERATION (/) USE AC ADAPTER 14-854 (/) SERIAL NO. 023939 5A8 (/) MADE IN TAIWAN.
The calculator has an imitation leather carrying case. Text on the front reads: Radio Shack.
Compare to an earlier and simpler Radio Shack scientific calculator, the EC-490 (see 1986.0988.036).
[Advertisement], Los Angeles Times, November 6, 1977, p. R2.
[Advertisement], Los Angeles Times, June 10, 1979, p. R7. EC-281 on sale for $19.95.
Radio Shack, A Tandy Company, 1978 Catalog No. 289, p. 147, accessed September 22, 2014, at The price listed is $29.95.
Currently not on view
Object Name
electronic calculator
date made
Tandy Corporation
Physical Description
plastic (case; keys; display cover; carrying case material)
metal (circuitry material)
paper (sticker material)
overall: 1 1/4 in x 3 1/4 in x 6 in; 3.175 cm x 8.255 cm x 15.24 cm
place made
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Computers & Business Machines
Handheld Electronic Calculators
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Computers
Handheld Electronic Calculators
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of John B. Priser
Additional Media

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