Personal Tech

Ten classic electronic calculators from the 1970s and 1980s

Lo-tech delights for button-pushers worldwide

Texas Instruments TI-35 (1979)

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If you didn’t have a Casio calculator around this time, there’s a pretty good chance that you had a Texas Instruments one instead. Mostly known now for chips, back then the firm also produced the Speak and Spell and other educational devices, as well as calculators.

Texas Instruments TI-35

Source: Bob Wolfson

The TI-35 was a “slimline” LCD model, with an eight-character display - by 1979 LEDs were, like the Callaghan government, on their way out. With a modest range of functions which nevertheless included basic stats, and a “Constant Memory” which retained values even when the device was turned off, this was a pretty competent calculator, with a very distinct feel to the keys, which felt as if they were hinged at the top.

Hewlett-Packard HP-41C (1979)

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If the all-singing, all-dancing card-reading TI-59 was the Fred Astaire of programmable calculators, then the HP-41C was Ginger Rogers, doing it backwards in Reverse Polish Notation. It wasn’t the first calculator to use the method - previous HP models had it, and so did one of the early Sinclairs, too - but it also added a world first alphanumeric display, and was HP’s first LCD model into the bargain.

Hewlett-Packard HP-41C

Source: Twylo

The display made programming much simpler, and you could even reassign the keys, with blank templates available, allowing pre-programmed calculators to be handed to users for specific tasks. Expansion slots on the top edge allowed for pre-programmed memory to be added, along with peripherals such as a printer and a magnetic card reader which could read and translate cards from the earlier HP-67.

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Next page: Casio FX-81 (1981)