Sharp EL-8 Electronic Calculator

Sharp EL-8 Electronic Calculator

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This compact Japanese electronic calculator straddles the border between desktop and pocket calculators. It is too large to fit in the pocket but considerably more compact than Sharp’s QT-8B. It does not require a cradle to recharge batteries.
The calculator has an array of nine digit keys, with larger 0 and decimal point keys below. Right of these are a clear key, a key for indicating that multiplication (rather than addition) should be carried out, a key for indication that division (rather than subtraction) should be carried out, and a key for multiplication or division. The machine has an eight-digit capacity for all operations. In back of the keyboard is an eight-digit display. Above these are alarm and error indicators. A switch is on the side shifts between AC operation, off, and DC operation.
A mark on the front reads: SHARP. A tag on the back reads in part: SHARP MODEL EL-8. It also reads: NO. 1021694 (/) SHARP ELECTRONICS CORPORATION (/) 10 KEYSTONE PLACE, PARAMUS (/) NEW JERSEY 07652 MADE IN JAPAN. An AC adaptor comes with the device and is assigned number 1981.0922.05.1. The dimensions given do not include the adaptor, the case for the adapter, or the case for the calculator.
Inside the instrument are six nickel-cadmium batteries in a case, a calculator circuit board, a display circuit board, and eight tubes for the display. The four integrated circuits on the calculator board were made by North American Rockwell. A stamp below the calculator circuit board reads: 1021694.
The battery cover is marked in part: SHARP MODEL EL-84 (/) NICKEL-CADMIUM (/) RECHARGEABLE BATTERY. It also is marked: SHARP CORPORATION OSAKA, JAPAN. Hayakawa Electric adopted the name Sharp Corporation in January of 1970.
The SHARP EL-8 was widely advertised in the United States from early 1971 and sold for $345. This example was used by NMAH curator John White. An invoice received with the device (part of 1981.0922.05.2) indicates that he purchased it October 30, 1971.
Compare a slightly earlier Sharp machine, the model QT-8B (2006.0132.22). Also compare three versions of the EL-8 (1982.0656.01, 1981.0922.05, and 1991.0154.01).
Examples of the Sharp EL-8 are discussed online at the Vintage Calculators Web Museum, The Old Calculators Web Museum, John Wolff’s Web Museum and the Datamath Calculator Museum.
Guy Ball and Bruce Flamm, The Complete Collector’s Guide to Pocket Calculators, Tustin, Calif.: Wilson/Barnett Publishing, 1997, pp. 136–137.
J. R. Free, “Microelectronics Shrinks the Calculator,” Popular Science, 198 #6, June 1971, pp. 74–76.
“How to Cut a Pocket Calculator in Half,” Electronics, 44. February 1, 1971, no page. An ad for the EL-8 (called the ELSI-8) appeared on pp. 12–13 of this issue.
Sharp Electronic Calculator with ELSI Compet ELSI-8 Model EL-8 Instruction Manual, no date. This is 1981.0933.05.2.
Currently not on view
Object Name
electronic calculator
date made
Sharp Corporation
place made
Japan: Ōsaka, Ōsaka
Physical Description
plastic (case, keys, boards, carying case material)
glass (tubes material)
rubber (cord material)
metal (wiring material)
overall: 7 cm x 10.3 cm x 16.2 cm; 2 3/4 in x 4 1/16 in x 6 3/8 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of John White
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Computers
Computers & Business Machines
Desktop Electronic Calculators
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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I worked with someone who in 1970 bought what I am sure he called an ELSI-8 but it is not the one you show. He paid $400 for it (I remember that number well because in 1970, that was a lot of money). He was a licensed Land Surveyor so I guess it paid for him to buy it. Anyway, the calculator he had used an LED (red dots) display which were almost impossible to see on a bright sunny day and only had the ten number keys along with the plus, minus, multiply and divide keys... there way no decimal point key! This was a pure replacement for slide rules (which is what we used before) but it read out to 8 digits (could not get anywhere near that number of digits on a slide rule). Have you heard of such a calculator from back then? Could sharp have had an early model for its ELSI-8?
Hi Rick, With what resources I currently have at my disposal (working from home during COVID-19 pandemic), I’m having a hard time finding a calculator from around 1970 that exhibits all of the features you mention. Could it be that your former colleague’s calculator was made by a manufacturer other than Sharp? For instance, a calculator that would meet many (but not all) of the criteria you mention is the Smith-Corona-Marchant I RX (search object number 2017.0315.02 in our collection for an example of this calculator).
The calculator shown is an EL-8, the manual that came with it was for the ELSI-8.
I just watched a vintage video advertisement ( for the ELSI-8 and it brought back memories of my lust at that time for a scientific calculator as HP was selling their introduction, the HP-35. I think it was some $395, a shirt pocket sized model, much smaller than the ELSI-8. That Sharp model had no scientific functions. I found it strange that the Sharp video included an artistic image of a sphere-shaped cluster of math operators, two of them with the radical sign or radix -- one, the square root of 3 and the other the square root of 7. Strange, indeed, since the ELSI-8 was not capable of any scientific functions, square root operation included. I was able to convince my boss to get me the HP-35 in the year 1972 for my manufacturing tool designing duties.

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