Sharp EL-8152 A Elsi-Mate Handheld Electronic Calculator

In the second half of the 1970s, taking advantage of the introduction of liquid crystal displays, manufacturers of handheld electronic calculators designed and built ever-thinner products. In this Sharp calculator the usual keys have been replaced by a single thin membrane. This reduces the thickness of the calculator itself to about .16 cm (less than 1/8”). Pushing numbers on such a calculator produces no tactile sensation. To give users a sense that they indeed had entered information, the calculator could be set so that a tone sounded whenever a digit or function was entered. Pushing the section of the membrane with a musical note on it (called the sensor key) activated this part of the calculator.
The calculator has a total of twenty-six “keys” In addition to the sensor key, these include ten digit keys, a decimal point key, a total key, four arithmetic function keys, and three memory keys. Behind these are a % key, and a clear entry key, as well as a STR key for storing a number in the memory and a COMP key for computing conversions by multiplying the stored value by the number shown on the display. Behind these are keys for off and for on/clear. Text next to these last two keys reads: ELSI MATE (/) EL-8152 (/) STORAGE COMPUTER. Behind this is the eight-digit LCD display. Text behind this reads: SHARP.
Text on the back of the calculator reads: SHARP (/) ELECTRONIC CALCULATOR (/) EL-8152. It also reads: SHARP CORPORATION MADE IN JAPAN BM. The most recent U.S. patent number listed is 3976994, a patent issued in 1976 and assigned to Sharp. A label below this reads: 07004741. The calculator ran on two squat cylindrical silver oxide batteries.
The calculator has a dark blue cloth carrying case. Text on the front of it reads: SHARP. This case, in turn, fits into a cardboard box with a small pamphlet. The cover of the manual reads: SHARP COMPET ELSI MATE (/) ELECTRONIC CALCULATOR (/) EL-8152 (/) INSTRUCTION MANUAL. Also included loose in the manual is a warning not to carry the calculator in a back pocket. The sleeve for the box reads: SHARP (/) ELECTRONIC CALCULATOR (/) EL-8152 A.
An example of the Sharp EL-8152 was shown in a 1994 exhibition on modern Japanese design, held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Sharp membrane calculators in the collections include 1997.0032.01 (Sharp EL-8152 or EL-8152A), 1987.0435.13 (Sharp EL-8130A), and 1986.0988.316 (Sharp EL-8145).
[Advertisement], Chicago Tribune, December 23, 1979, p. B1. Calculator advertised (EL-8152) said to be 1/16” thick, selling for $39.95.
[Advertisement], Los Angeles Times, May 1, 1980, p. 17. This advertisement lists the Sharp EL-8152 calculator (not the EL-8152 A) as on sale for $32.97.
[Advertisement], Los Angeles Times, September 4, 1980, p. B13. Sharp EL-8152 (not EL-8152 A) advertised as on sale for $39.99.
Kathryn B. Hiesinger and Felice Fischer, Japanese Design: A Survey Since 1950, Philadelphia; Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1994, p. 123.
Currently not on view
Object Name
electronic calculator
date made
Sharp Corporation
Physical Description
metal (case; circuitry material)
glass (display material)
plastic (center material)
velvet (case material)
paper (box; instructions material)
overall: .3 cm x 5.4 cm x 9.6 cm; 1/8 in x 2 1/8 in x 3 25/32 in
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 Cameron J. La Clair, Jr.
Additional Media

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