Hand-held Calculators

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Curta Type I

The Curta was sold into the 1970s and was advertised in competition with the early electronic hand-held calculators, so is included as a comparison with the electronic calculators with which it competed.

Curta in the hand

Curta Type I.

Distinctive features: Remarkably tiny yet capable mechanical calculator.

Technical details:
52 mm diameter x 105 mm high (2" x 4").

Made in Liechtenstein 1948 - 1972.

A stepped gear type calculator capable of the four functions, and more using special techniques.

Curta & container

A Curta and its metal container.

Curta legend

The legend on the bottom.


Curta with the number 12345789 set.


Curta with 12345789 set and the crank turned once, as shown by the "1" appearing in the white, counter, sector.
This has added the "12345789"  to the accumulator - the black sector.
Turning the crank another revolution would add "12345789" again to the accumulator and the counter would advance to 2.

The ring is used for clearing the accumulator and counter.

This remarkable mechanical calculator is much sought after. It is a versatile yet very small machine with a fascinating history.
It was devised by Curt Herzstark while he was in Buchenwald concentration camp. He was given a drawing board and was encouraged so that it could be given to the Feuhrer. However, development was completed after liberation by the Americans.
A slightly larger Type II was also produced with increased capacity.

For more information on Curt Herzstark and the story of the Curta see Bruce Flamm's article "The Amazing Curta" in the "Collecting Calculators" section of this site.

To learn more about the life of Curt Herzstark, who designed the Curta, and the amazing story of the Curta's development the Charles Babbage Institute has an oral history transcript with an interview of Mr. Herzstark at http://purl.umn.edu/107358.

Highly recommended is the YouTube video"How the CURTA Works" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loI1Kwed8Pk

For much more information about Curta calculators visit "Curta.Org: Your Complete Curta Calculator Site".

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Text & photographs copyright, except where stated otherwise, © Nigel Tout 2000-2024.