Innovations of the early 1960s transformed computing. Most people calculated in their heads or used handheld devices like slide rules. New electronic components, particularly transistors, made possible the first desktop electronic calculators and better computers.

A handful of scientists squeezed closet-sized computers into their labs. Larger computers, which required an entire room and special staff, became workhorses of business, government, and universities.


Keuffel & Esser Slide Rule, about 1960
Scientists and engineers used slide rules to for routine calculations. A chemist at Celanese Corporation owned this example. (Collected 1993, Gift of Alfred E. Brown)

Pickett Beginner’s Slide Rule, about 1965
This slide rule for children included scales for both addition and subtraction and multiplication and division. (Collected 1995, Gift of Lawrence J. Kamm)

Prototype Electronic Calculator, 1964
Californian Thomas E. Osborne built this model, the starting point for Hewlett-Packard’s first desktop calculator. It included both electrical circuitry for calculation and a mock-up of the keyboard and display. (Collected 1978, Gift of Hewlett-Packard Company)

Electronic Calculator Advertisement, 1965
(Courtesy Monroe Systems for Business)

Brochure for LINC Computer, 1964
Developed for biomedical scientists at the National Institutes of Health, the closet-sized Laboratory Instrument Computer (LINC) was a pioneering “minicomputer.” (Collected 1972, From the National Bureau of Standards)

Salesman’s Model of a Computer, about 1965
In 1964 IBM Corporation announced its System 360, a family of room-sized computers. A version of the machine is represented in miniature here. (Collected 2013, Gift of Thomas J. Bergin)

Installed IBM System 360, about 1965
(Courtesy IBM Archive)