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Ten classic electronic calculators from the 1970s and 1980s

Lo-tech delights for button-pushers worldwide

Casio FX-81 (1981)

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The cream coloured FX-81 and its close relative, the FX-82, were almost ubiquitous in schoolrooms in the early to mid-1980s, whether you were in the O-level or the CSE (Certificate of Secondary Education) streams.

Casio FX-81

With an eight-digit LCD display and a chunky top end that held the two AA batteries, these were solid school maths workhorses. Casio churned out millions of these and of similar looking models, including some for other people - the Boots 527 scientific calculator was a Casio FX-7 with a different badge on it. If you were a bit of a swot, you might go instead for the FX-100, with those all-important extra two digits.

Casio FX-550 (1981)

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In the early 1980s, calculators were booming, but so were concerns about what they’d mean for numeracy – and for maths exams. Within a few years, most examination boards would be allowing people to use calculators for O levels and for CSEs. If you were heading for A level Maths or Physics, though, a humble FX-81 wouldn’t cut it.

You wanted something with ten digits of precision, and plenty of functions for statistics and trigonometry. The FX-550 had all of those - and even a random number generator. A slim, metal-clad model that came with a flip-cover plastic wallet, the FX-550 saw countless students through their exams and into university.

It didn’t have the programmable functions of some fancier models, but for many of us in the 1980s, this and similar models were an essential tool at school or college.

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