Sharp PC-1201 Handheld Electronic Calculator

This is the first kind of programmable calculator sold by Sharp Corporation. The manufacturer advertised it as a “pocket computer.” The handheld electronic calculator has a metal and plastic case with forty rectangular plastic keys. In addition, there are two slides along the right side, one for setting the type of angular measure to be entered (degrees/radians/grads) and the other relating to entering and running programs.
The scientific calculator has the keys for digits; arithmetic functions; sign change; logarithmic, exponential, trigonometric, and inverse trigonometric functions; summation; powers; square roots; cube roots; pi; factorials; reciprocals; and squares. A 1977 advertisement boast that it has “24+ preprogrammed scientific functions.” In addition, it was possible to enter programs of up to 128 steps and store up to twelve of them in the memory of the calculator. There was no provision for external storage of the programs or for entering or displaying alphabetic characters. The initial price of $89.95 dropped quickly.
Behind the keyboard is a green vacuum fluorescent display that shows up to twelve digits of a mantissa and two digits of an exponent (in base ten). A mark above the display reads: SHARP ELSI MATE (/) PC-1201. A mark above this reads: SHARP (/) POCKET COMPUTER. An on/off switch is on the left side and a power jack is along the back edge.
The battery compartment at the top of the back of the calculator holds two AA batteries. Text below it reads in part: POCKET COMPUTER (/) PC-1201. It also reads in part: SHARP CORPORATION (/) MADE IN JAPAN BM. Below this mark is a silver-colored sticker. A mark below this reads: 75004789.
[Advertisement], Washington Post, September 13, 1977, p. A13. Advertised as on sale for $89.95.
[Advertisement], Los Angeles Times, October 28, 1978, p. C6. Special price on PC-1201 is $79.95.
[Advertisement], Washington Post, November 11, 1979, p. A10. Closeout sale on a “user programmable pocket computer” made by Sharp that originally sold for $89.95 offers device for $39.35. Looks like this calculator.
Websites with considerable discussion of this calculator include and, both accessed October 30, 2014.
Currently not on view
Object Name
electronic calculator
date made
Sharp Corporation
Physical Description
metal (case front material)
plastic (case back; keys; circuitry material)
paper (sticker material)
overall: 7/8 in x 3 1/4 in x 6 in; 2.2225 cm x 8.255 cm x 15.24 cm
place made
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Computers
Handheld Electronic Calculators
Computers & Business Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of John B. Priser
Additional Media

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