National Semiconductor NS 600 Handheld Electronic Calculator

National Semiconductor NS 600 Handheld Electronic Calculator

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This handheld electronic calculator has a cream-colored plastic case with fifteen plastic keys, thirteen of them square and two rectangular. It has ten digit keys, a clear key, and four keys for arithmetic functions. Behind the keyboard are a switch marked “DECIMAL” and an on/off switch. A mark between the switches reads: NS (/) ELECTRONICS. Behind the keyboard is an eight-digit display.
At the top of the back is a compartment for a nine-volt battery. A paper sticker below this reads in part: NS (/) ELECTRONICS 600 CALCULATOR Made in U.S.A. It also reads in part: 460374(/) SERIAL NUMBER. It also reads in part: NS ELECTRONICS (/) A Division of (/) National Semiconductor Corp. (/) 2900 Semiconductor Drive, (/) Santa Clara, California 95051.
According to trademark records, the trademark shown on this calculator was first used in commerce in September 1973 and registered in 1977. No registration is indicated on the object.
Compare three examples of the National Semiconductor 600, 1986.0988.064, 1986.0988.275, and 1986.0988.307 (the Whiz Kid).
[Advertisment], Chicago Tribune, April 26, 1974, p. B10. NS600 advertised as on sale for a reduced price of $24.88.
[Advertisment], Washington Post, November 28, 1974, p. L10. NS600 on sale for $14.88, regular price $19.88.
U.S. Trademark 73008967, filed December 17, 1973, registered February 22, 1977.
Currently not on view
Object Name
electronic calculator
Other Terms
electronic calculator; Handheld
date made
ca 1974
National Semiconductor Corporation
place made
United States
Physical Description
plastic (case; keys material)
metal (circuitry material)
paper (sticker material)
overall: 1 in x 2 5/8 in x 5 in; 2.54 cm x 6.6675 cm x 12.7 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of John B. Priser
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Computers
Computers & Business Machines
Handheld Electronic Calculators
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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I got this one for Christmas in 1973, I was 11 and I went bonkers. Notice no = sign... you enter your first number then hit the Plus button to set it in memory, then you hit the second number of the equation and then you hit the function you want. So 2x3=6 is entered as 2 + 3 x. The large area behind the display was where the 9v battery was stored. It came in a black shiny box.
I received one of these in an elementary school lottery in early 1976 when I was in 8th grade. It was my second calculator, as I had received a TI-1250 for a Christmas present a few months before. Since the TI-1250 was so much more capable and usable, this was just a toy to me and I ended up taking it apart to see how it worked. It was not very useful because it could only to integer math, no decimals. There was a decimal switch that simply lit up a decimal LED two places in from the right, but it did not affect calculations. It only 'worked' for addition and subtraction, provided that you always keyed in two digits for the decimal part. I would guess it was the least useful electronic calculator ever sold.
I adore "retro" calculators (they were not retro when I was a teen who could not afford them!) I was delighted to get one of these for a few dollars at a thrift shop. The rear label was missing, so I'm happy to find this page with the photo to confirm what I have. It's like an adding machine: no '=' key. You must press an operator to get the subtotal. The LED is so old each segment is 4 tiny dots, and it's all under a magnifier! It's rather rude too: gives an ERROR the moment you press a 7th digit!
"The NS 600 was the first calculator we had in our family. I was only seven years old when I went to Two Guys on a Saturday morning in 1974 with my father where he bought one of these on a whim. I even remember the price: $19.99! That was a lot of money back then, which we didn't mother was livid when we came home! I haven't seen that calculator in 30 years or more, but I can still feel it in my hand and remember the dull "click " the keys made when you pressed them. The fixed-point decimal is another feature that hasn't been found on any calculator in 40 years or more!"

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