A celebration of old calculators showing the evolution from mechanical calculator to pocket electronic calculator
A revolution in calculating machines took place between the early 1960s and the late 1970s. It was during this vintage period that the electronics for calculators was at the cutting edge of electronics research. Calculators evolved from large, expensive, mechanical machines to cheap, electronic, credit card sized devices. The development of micro-electronics for calculators was an important phase in the history of technology, which included the development of the microprocessor.
This fascinating story is illustrated here with -
The increasing capability of the electronic integrated circuits can be seen, which led to the microprocessor and the personal computer.
This site is dedicated to those who had to use slide-rules and mechanical calculators at school, university, and at work, back when the idea of a pocket electronic calculator was just a dream, and when they were eventually developed and went on sale having one was still a dream since at that time they were unaffordable for most people.
The objective of this site is not to simply show large numbers of calculators but to feature representative examples of the various types, and highlight the main steps in the evolution from mechanical to cheap hand-held electronic calculators.
A separate section deals with British calculators, including models for the old British sterling (pounds, shillings and pence - £sd) money system before decimalisation, and other non-decimal calculators.
Minor updates to this site are constantly being made, and photographs and page content are being reviewed and improved where appropriate.
Last significant update 20th January 2021 Update Information
If you have news of any calculator event please get in touch so that details can be displayed here.
Mechanical calculators were produced on a commercial scale from the 1870s through to the 1970s
In this section is a representative selection of hand-operated and electro-mechanical calculators, both desktop and hand-held.
Electronic desktop calculators were launched at the end of 1961, and were initially large and heavy machines.
Some of the early, strange and interesting, electronic desk calculators are featured in this section. Included are details of the world's first electronic calculators and prototypes that never made it into production.
A few models of portable electronic calculators having both a transformer for AC operation and batteries appeared in 1971.
These hybrid models briefly appeared before the size and power requirements of common calculator electronics had shrunk enough to enable truly hand-held calculators. A selection are featured in this section.
The first hand-held electronic calculators (that is powered by batteries and without an inbuilt AC transformer) were launched in 1970, with the first 'pocket'-sized model appearing in 1971.
This section features early electronic hand-held calculators up to the late 1970s, that is during the years when calculator technology was developing rapidly. It includes details of the world's first hand-held and pocket calculators, and also a comparison with the hand-held mechanical calculators they competed against.
This section features non-decimal mechanical and electronic calculators.
Included are Feet and Inch calculators; a Tons, Hundredweights, Quarters and Pounds calculator; Sterling Currency (£sd) calculators.
In this section is told the story of the development of calculator electronics and the race to make the pocket calculators that we are familiar with today.
Photographs of Vintage Calculators:
A List of Hand-held calculators & Addendum to the book "The Complete Collector's Guide to Pocket Calculators":
A collection of articles originating from the International Association of Calculator Collectors
(sadly, now no longer in operation), together with new articles specially written for the Vintage Calculators Site.
See further down for the latest new articles.
The latest articles added to the "Collecting Calculators" section:
"The calculator that spawned the microprocessor" - The Busicom 141-PF (aka NCR 18-36) calculator and the Intel 4004 microprocessor.
"The Twin Marchant and its place in history" - A calculator born out of wartime necessity.
The development of the TSI Speech+ calculator. Launched in 1976 the Speech+ was the first speaking calculator, being designed for the visually impaired, and one of the first consumer products with speech synthesis.
The "Calculator-on-a-Chip". A significant arrival in 1971 was the single-chip calculator. The cost of calculators was about to plummet.
Replacing a leaking battery pack and defective main chip of a Novus 4525 Scientist PR. The process of restoring a non-working calculator.
Build Your Own Retro Calculator. "Retro" is very fashionable - Why not buy a build-it-yourself calculator kit and make your own "Retro" calculator.
"Sterling Currency (£sd) Multiplication on a 12-key Add-Lister". Instructions for performing multiplication on the old British Sterling (£sd) non-decimal currency using a simple add-lister.
Calculator Inventory Tags. The inventory tag of a well known organisation on a calculator can add significant interest to it. A selection of inventory tags is illustrated.
11) Vintage British Desk and Hand-held Calculators
This section has moved to an associated site: Vintage British Calculators.
Click here to go to an associated site giving the story of the Bell Punch Company and the ANITA Calculator: the World's First Desktop Electronic Calculator.
This is an index to the calculators featured in detail on this site as representative of calculator development.
If you are looking for a specific calculator have a look in section 5) Vintage Calculator Photo Library.
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Use this search engine to search everything on this site.
On display at The National Museum of Computing (on the Bletchley Park site) in England, is the reconstructed pioneering Colossus computer, as well as 50 vintage calculators.
An associated site with a detailed history of the development of the ANITA calculators, the first electronic desktop calculators is at "Bell Punch Company and the Anita Calculators".
Please note that this is a virtual calculator museum which only exists as photographs and text on this website, not as a physical display of
None of the calculators displayed is for sale.
The Vintage Calculator Web Museum is interested in acquiring early electronic calculators, and also calculator operating manuals, service manuals, catalogs, and brochures.
If you have anything that you are willing to donate please contact me.
Your comments, information, corrections, photographs of vintage calculators for the photo library, etc., will be gratefully received and used to enhance the site. - Please leave a message.
Hints on navigating the site -
The navigation bars, in general, are at the bottom of each page - Press the "End" key on your keyboard to go to there.
Each of the sections shown above is separate.
Some pages occur more than once, in different sections. For example, the Anita Mk VII occurs in the "Desk Electronic" section and the "Anita" section.
A "~" character before a year indicates "about that year".
The site is updated as new information and photographs become available.
Disclaimer: The information on this site is presented in good faith. While we make great efforts to list accurate details we take no responsibility for any consequences for errors that may unintentionally be present. Note that even over the few decades since the calculators shown here were new it can be very difficult to judge the accuracy of information provided by the various sources that have been used. Be aware that information presented here may be updated as further detail becomes available.
This site is member of the Calculator Collecting Ring.
You may also be interested in my site specifically about the Bell Punch Company and its ANITA calculators, including the world's first electronic desktop calculator, at http://anita-calculators.info/.
Interested in 1940s computers, WWII coding machines & code-breaking, old computers and military communications? - Try the Bletchley Park museum at www.bletchleypark.org.uk and The National Museum of Computing with their Vintage Computers and Calculators at www.retrobeep.com .
Also interested in preserved steam railways ? - Try the Great Central Railway at www.gcrailway.co.uk - the world's only double track preserved steam railway.
I also have a site showing the remains of the old Great Central Railway through Leicester at www.gcrleicester.info, and a site with old photographs of railways in that area at http://www.nigeltout.com/html/railway_photo_galleries.html.
© Text & photographs copyright Nigel Tout 2000-2021 except where noted otherwise.