August 31, 2010 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Vintage calculator museums

Calculators too high tech for you? Try the slide rule museum.
posted by get off of my cloud (26 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Nice work with the title. :)
posted by zarq at 10:59 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was kind of hoping this would be a real museum.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:04 AM on August 31, 2010

I hadn't seen a Curta II since the days of road rallies back in the sixties. Thanks!
posted by ahimsakid at 11:07 AM on August 31, 2010

The Internet seems hellbent on making me want a Curta. I've resisted so far but a man can only be pushed so far.
posted by DU at 11:08 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Museum of HP Calculators.

I still have (and use) my HP 11C, which I picked up used in 1987.
posted by gruchall at 11:11 AM on August 31, 2010

I got my mom a Curta I for Christmas a few years ago. It's pretty fun to play with. Very cool to show off and demonstrate for others, especially math-minded folk.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:15 AM on August 31, 2010

Neat. My father actually had one of those strange Kosmos Astro things.
posted by Iosephus at 11:17 AM on August 31, 2010

I want a Concept 2000 - Mr. Mus-i-cal !!!
posted by KogeLiz at 11:27 AM on August 31, 2010

Usually I like being the age I am, but it bugs the heck out of me that I remember when most of these were new, cool, and desirable.
posted by bearwife at 11:32 AM on August 31, 2010

This simply doesn't add up....
posted by MajorDundee at 11:32 AM on August 31, 2010

Want slide rules you can actually use? Here, for example, is a Picket N909-ES simulation.
posted by richyoung at 11:38 AM on August 31, 2010

Vintage calculator manuals, formatted as PDFs. Found while looking for "manual calculators" because I was searching for the kind my wife found in a vintage shop. you used a stylus to pull down columns, and there was a reset button. It was completely novel to us, and as a math teacher, it intrigued her.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:44 AM on August 31, 2010

Kind of like this, but different. And goodness, there are more here. I want to say it was a "baby calculator," which took me full circle to a page on VintageCalculators.com. Oh, the internet!
posted by filthy light thief at 11:48 AM on August 31, 2010

I'll never forgive them taking the -analog option out of xcalc.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 11:58 AM on August 31, 2010

I had this calculator that looked like a professor. No wonder I suck at math.
posted by punkfloyd at 12:28 PM on August 31, 2010

I remember back in the 1970's, a friend of my dad's had something like this, and I remember thinking, "Wow, we'll never be able to afford something like that. I'd never have to go to math class again." 15-20 years later calculators with those capabilities were freaking party favors.

Interesting, the third site linked has some info on original list prices. The first under $100 calculator!
posted by marxchivist at 12:52 PM on August 31, 2010

I used to have a Casio at work in the early seventies: for some reason its price of $500 stuck to my brain.
posted by francesca too at 12:57 PM on August 31, 2010

Somewhere I have Casio Mini Card LC-78. (I think.) I used it for years.

Which has me wondering...what exactly is the product life-cycle of a calculator these days? On my desk is a basic calculator, a Sharp EL-385. I use it all the time, far quicker than opening/using the built-in calculator in Windows. I've been using the Sharp since 1989, and it was probably introduced in the mid eighties, for all I know. I would not be shocked if you could still buy it--I can't imagine what you'd do to improve it, for what I use it for.
posted by maxwelton at 1:20 PM on August 31, 2010

In 1973 I took an engineering course in which the standard for judging answers on exams was "slide rule accuracy" (which for you young folks means 2 digits with a potential stab at the third one). Calculators were permitted but not required.

This turned out to be the semester, however, in which prices on calculators dropped through the $100 mark for a simple four-function one, without even a memory function. I was good on a slide rule and kept using it, but by the time the final exam rolled around every other kid had a calculator and was putting down answers with 6-digit accuracy. Mine were still on the 2-3 digit slide rule standard and half my answers were marked incorrect. I had to go argue with the prof and remind him of the slide rule accuracy requirement to change my grade. I think I broke down the following semester and bought an HP-something for $79.99.
posted by beagle at 1:23 PM on August 31, 2010

Correction, via that third link, what I finally bought was a TI-2500-II. That page says the first version was $119.95 in Sept. 1972. I'm guessing it was Christmas 1973 when it came down to $79.95.
posted by beagle at 1:30 PM on August 31, 2010

It's quaint to think of a hand-held calculator as requiring lots of batteries, e.g. 4 D cells or 8 AA for a basic 4 function calculator. It also make me wonder how long the trend is going to continue.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:54 PM on August 31, 2010

It's astonishing how our visual images of technology become locked in by current practices.

I first encountered Curta calculators in reading Gibson's Pattern Recognition, and he doesn't describe them very well; I was still picturing something relatively flat, with rows of sliders like buttons, not a device that looks more like a pepper grinder or fishing reel.

Early hearing aids might be just as hard to envision if you are used to late twentieth-century ones that fit behind or in the ear, not a device that looks like an iPod.
posted by bad grammar at 5:22 PM on August 31, 2010

I still use my dad's slide rule. Slide rules pretty much rock. Calculators are better for spelling the word BOOBIES upside down though.
posted by shinybaum at 8:06 PM on August 31, 2010

This looks like something out of Blade Runner.
posted by hellojed at 10:29 PM on August 31, 2010

As a teenager, I saw something very similar to this mechanical calculator at a thrift store for $5. I thought it was awesome and wanted to buy it. But then I thought "Naaah, it's cool, but not too useful. I'd have to get ribbon and tape and stuff. I'd probably never use it.

Well, I've been thinking about that machine ever since, so now I'm kicking myself.

Anybody want to help me figure out what that it was? It wasn't much bigger than a handheld electronic calculator. It only did addition, but if you flipped a switch, it would also do subtraction. As you typed in your number, a slider thingy would slide out that would show how many digits you'd entered. It was placed in such a way as to imitate handheld electronic caclulator displays. When you hit the big + button, it would print the number, or the sum, onto the paper receipt tape (I don't know exactly what it printed out because it didn't have any tape). It was pretty boss.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 1:46 PM on September 1, 2010

In 1976, my mother secretly saved up in hard times an entire week's wages, of my dad's, as sole earner, and he was an architect, so not low wages, but they were caught up in the mad inflation of the period (house prices going up 12fold in one year) so they were skint, she saved up this whole week's wages to buy my father a present she had heard about from her friend, a maths teacher, who had never seen one but read of them in an american publication, and secretly went on the train to london one day to purchase from an obscure shop, a calculator, which he still has but does not use, and was the talk of the office, which being the Greater London Council architects' office, was quite large. Apparently their/a cafe roasted their own coffee on the premises from midmorning: this exquisitely torturing smell is my dad's most vivid memory of working there, waiting for the coffee at lunchtime. For the youth of today: having recently taken maths a level, i bought and attempted to use a modern calculator, but failed to get used to it: now, you enter the operation (eg, 'square' '2') then the number you wish it to operate on. All you have done is kept onscreen, allowing you to delete the last action, not the whole equation. In my day, you could only delete everything, and you had one action at a time, so you entered your numbers and actions in chronolical order ('2' 'square'). This historical calculator has =+-x and divide. And a 'clear'or delete function. On/off, as uses a battery. No memory, no %, no nonsense.
posted by maiamaia at 3:33 PM on September 2, 2010

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