Feeds

Ten classic electronic calculators from the 1970s and 1980s

Lo-tech delights for button-pushers worldwide

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Retro roundup Until sometime in the early 1980s, when you reached secondary school you were handed a slim book full of numbers during a maths lesson and taught how to use log tables. Sines, cosines, tangents, square roots - they were all in there too. While it made a change from long division, it caused its own share of headaches.

But, to a nation of people for whom pounds, shillings and pence were still a fresh memory, perhaps mental gymnastics weren’t too tricky for many of us.

Casio calculator

Source: Mark Ramsay

Yet throughout the 1970s and 1980s, modern electronics were making calculators a practical device for more and more people. No longer were electro-mechanical adding machines tethered to a desk and a mains cable. They had become pocket-sized gadgets that at first enchanted, then caused alarm at the prospect of cheating, and finally became accepted - and maybe dumbed some of us down a little in the process.

Here, then, in chronological order, are ten of the fondest remembered classic calculators. If we've not included yours, do let us know in the comments.

Sinclair Executive (1972)

Reg Hardware retro numbers

Clive Sinclair wasn’t the first person to bring out a handheld electronic calculator - Sharp produced one in 1970, as did a few other Japanese companies - but he did make one of the first slim models. The Executive was also the first calculator in the world to be powered by button cells, a trick achieved by pulsing them on and off to provide better battery life. With LCDs only just invented, power guzzling LEDs were the only viable display option in 1972.

Sinclair Executive

Source: MaltaGC

At £80 the Executive was not a calculator for everyone - the more cost-conscious could buy the 1973 Sinclair Cambridge in kit form if they wanted to save money.

To many Brits, Sir Clive is considered the inventor of the pocket calculators. It’s not true, but he certainly did a lot to popularise them here in Blighty.

Sinclair Cambridge Programmable (1975)

Reg Hardware retro numbers

Sinclair’s calculator range expanded tremendously in the early 1970s, with many models available both pre-built and in slightly cheaper kit form. The Cambridge Programmable - sold in the US under the Radio Shack brand - was limited to just 36 steps, and some of its trigonometry functions were notoriously inaccurate.

Using the same basic design as other Cambridge models, this one wasn’t able to run on the proposed AA batteries, resulting in a 9V cell-accommodating ugly bulge at the back that, in retrospect, may well be the first in a long line of Sinclair quirks.

Sinclair Cambridge Programmable

Source: Ian Dixon

Supplied with a large library of programs in four paper volumes, later versions of the Cambridge Programmable, such as the 1978 Enterprise Programmable, allowed for much larger programs and better accuracy, but by then the Japanese and their LCDs were on the way to world domination.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
Samsung Gear S: Quick, LAUNCH IT – before Apple straps on iWatch
Full specs for wrist-mounted device here ... but who'll buy it?
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Now that's FIRE WIRE: HP recalls 6 MILLION burn-risk laptop cables
Right in the middle of Burning Mains Man week
HUGE iPAD? Maybe. HUGE ADVERTS? That's for SURE
Noo! Hand not big enough! Don't look at meee!
AMD unveils 'single purpose' graphics card for PC gamers and NO ONE else
Chip maker claims the Radeon R9 285 is 'best in its class'
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.