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.

Date Made: 1977-1979

Maker: Tandy Corporation

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: Taiwan

See more items in: Medicine and Science: Computers, Computers & Business Machines, Handheld Electronic Calculators


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of John B. Priser

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1986.0988.222Catalog Number: 1986.0988.222Accession Number: 1986.0988

Object Name: electronic calculator

Physical Description: plastic (case; keys; display cover; carrying case material)metal (circuitry material)paper (sticker material)Measurements: overall: 1 1/4 in x 3 1/4 in x 6 in; 3.175 cm x 8.255 cm x 15.24 cm


Record Id: nmah_1305752

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.