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Calculator Integrated Circuit Manufacturers

Many electronics companies which manufactured calculator integrated circuits in the late 1960s and early 1970s have now disappeared, mainly in take overs by other companies.
The following are among companies which made calculator integrated circuits:

AMILogo_1™  American Micro-systems Inc. (AMI) - USA.


Was founded in 1966 in Santa Clara, California, and had a manufacturing plant in Pocatello, Idaho, to where the headquarters transferred in 1982.
Hewlett Packard used AMI as a second source for the chips of its first hand-held calculator, the HP-35.
The company moved into calculator manufacture under the trade name Unicom, but this part of the company was bought by Rockwell International in 1972.
The company is still in business as AMI Semiconductors.

 

Autonetics - A division of Rockwell.

 

Cal-Tex Corp. - Santa Clara, California, USA.
Supplied Eiko of Japan. The Prinztronic C20 uses the Cal-Tex CT5002 integrated circuit.

 

Commodore - USA.
The major calculator manufacturer Commodore took the opportunity for vertical integration by buying MOS Technology, one of its suppliers of calculator integrated circuits.  The journal "New Scientist" reported on 9th September 1976: "Commodore takes over chip manufacturer MOS Technology Inc. of Pennsylvania, after being closely associated for some years, though also subcontracting designs around the world."
"New Scientist" reported on 4th May 1978: "Commodore has made capital out of its recent purchase of the CMOS manufacturer Frontier to produce three new scientific and one financial calculator."

 

Electronic Arrays - Mountain View, California, USA.
Produced a 6-chip set of calculator ICs in 1970, that was the first put on the general market rather than made for a particular calculator manufacturer.  The set comprised an input unit, a control read-only memory (128 15-bit words), a control logic device, a register chip (3 64-bit shift-registers), an arithmetic unit, and an output device.  Sample sets sold for US$150.  The Walther ETR-3, featured on this site, is a calculator which used this chip-set.
International Calculating Machines Inc. (ICM) was a wholly owned subsidiary which produced calculators using this chip-set, and also badged calculators for other companies, such as Caltype Corp.[1]  For more information see http://www.oldcalculatormuseum.com/icm816.html.
Nippon Electric Company of Japan bought Electronic Arrays in 1978 to acquire semiconductor chip production facilities in the United States[2].
Other companies using Electronics Arrays ICs include: American Calculator of Dallas.

 

Emihus Electronics - Glenrothes, Scotland.
Owned 51% by Hughes Aircraft, of California U.S.A., and 49% by EMI (Electric and Musical Industries), of Great Britain.  Manufactured Rockwell-designed calculator integrated circuits under license for its Gemini calculators and a Hanimex model.
The Times of March 24, 1975 reported: "... Emihus Microelectronics (formerly owned by EMI and Hughes Aircraft; now once more wholly-owned by the American firm and renamed Hughes Microelectronics).  Emihus began making calculators for sale by Hanimex and later entered the market in its own right.  But the firm then decided to pull out of calculators altogether and has phased out its products over the past six moths or so.
Hughes will now concentrate on digital wrist-watches — the fashionable preoccupation of semiconductor makers ..."
[3]

 

Fairchild Camera and Instrument - USA.
Fairchild was a pioneer of the integrated circuit and was one of the largest manufacturers of the late 1960s/early 1970s.  However, it produced only a small number of calculator ICs, which can be seen in a couple of Casio desktop calculators, Casio 121K and Casio AS-C, and the Royal IC-130.  Later Fairchild got into difficulties and was taken over by the French company Schlumberger.

 

General Micro-electronics - USA.
Developed the first MOS (Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor) integrated circuits for commercial equipment for the Victor Comptometer Corporation's Victor 3900 calculator in 1965.
Was taken over by Philco-Ford Corp. early in 1966.
Problems of poor yield of the MOS integrated circuits during manufacture meant that very few calculators were produced.   Although, in 1967 it was reported in "Electronics" that half of Philco's production of MOS integrated circuits was for Victor calculators, and it was also due to deliver circuits to a Japanese calculator maker, there were still great problems and the development contract was cancelled in 1968.

 

General Instrument Microelectronics (GIM) - USA.
A subsidiary of General Instrument (GI), and a pioneer of MOS integrated circuits.
In Sepetember 1969 Electronics reported "Japan's Sanyo Electric Co. is seeking government approval of a licensing arrangement reached with General Instrument Corp. Under the arrangement, Sanyo will at first import and then manufacture the U.S. firm's metal, thick-oxide nitride silicon LSI circuits for use in the Japanese company's new miniature desk calculator.  The calculator is expected to go on the market early next year.  Terms of the 10-year licensing arrangement call for General Instrument to receive an $80,000 initial payment and a 3.25% royalty.  Although Sanyo will be allowed to sell the LSI circuits separately, the company didn't win an exclusivity clause.  Sanyo is investing $4.17 million in new production facilities to manufacture the circuits.  Domestic production is expected to start in June; the company's initial goal is 70,000 circuits.  The calculator itself has been redesigned so that each machine will require only four or five LSI circuits."
The Sanyo IC-0081 Mini Calculator, of 1970/1 used integrated circuits marked with the "GI" logo of General Intruments Microelectronics.
The company had some second sourcing arrangements with Ferranti of the UK, and also a plant in Glenrothes, Scotland.
The report "Electronic Calculator Markets and Suppliers", of 1974, says "GI is believed to be shipping 1/4 million [calculator integrated] circuits per month, and has supplied nearly all British manufacturers.  In addition to which GI chips are used by Monroe, Victor, Commodore, Royal and Singer in the USA, as well as Sanyo in Japan.  Rather greater volumes of chips are shipped by Texas Instruments and Rockwell, but it is General Instruments, in Britain and worldwide which tends to provide the greater support for the independent [calculator manufacturer]."
In 1987 General Instrument Microelectronics was renamed Microchip Technology Incorporated.

 

Hitachi - Japan.

 

IEE

IEE RC50 integrated circuit

Integrated circuits labelled "IEE" are found in the MD1 888p and MD2 888m, manufactured in Singapore.  If you have any information about this company please get in touch.

 

Intel - USA.
See Calculators and the Microprocessor.

 

Intersil - USA.

 

ITT (International Telephone & Telegraph) - USA.

 

Marconi-Elliot Microelectronics - UK
Manufactured calculator ICs for the Anita 1000 series in the late 1960s.  Was closed down in July 1971 by parent company GEC (the British General Electric Company) during one of the periodic industry downturns.

 

Matsushita Electronics Corporation - Japan.
A joint venture between Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co. Ltd. and Philips Gloeilampenfabrieken of the Netherlands.

 

Mitsubishi - Japan.

 

MOS Technology - Pennsylvania, USA.
The semiconductor manufacturer MOS Technology was founded in 1969 by the industrial manufacturing company Allen-Bradley.  It produced calculator integrated circuits for a variety of calculator manufacturers, but was hit hard in the mid-1970s when the price of calculators plummeted and many of its customers went out of business.  Commodore had been buying calculator chips from MOS since 1972 and by 1976 was its largest customer.  Commodore saw the opportunity of becoming more vertically integrated and snapped up MOS Technology.
The Journal "New Scientist" reported on 9th September 1976: "Commodore takes over chip manufacurer MOS Technology Inc. of Pennsylvania, after being closely associated for some years, ...   . Commodore ...   ... has acquired 100 per cent of the equity of MOS Technology Inc of Pennsylvania in exchange for a 9.4 per cent equity stake in Commodore.  MOS Technology is privately owned and valued at around $12 million.
MOS Technology had developed the highly successful 6502 microprocessor, which was used in the early Commodore personal computers.

 

Mostek Corp. - Dallas, Texas, USA.
Founded in 1969 by people from Texas Instruments.  In 1970 it was struggling financially and contracted with the great Japanese pioneer calculator technology company Nippon Calculating Machine Co. (Busicom) to produce a single LSI chip for calculators.  After frenzied development work the first ever "calculator on a chip" was produced at the end of 1970, as told in "The Chip" archived from the Mostek site.  This was the MOSTEK MK6010 which was used in the Busicom Junior/NCR 18-16 desktop calculator.
The chip did not include a clock generator or display drivers.  It was manufactured using a "high -threshold, p-channel MOS operating from -12 and -24 volts because its compatible with the power supply in the calculator".
It was also used in the Busicom LE-120A "Handy", the first hand-held calculator.

Mostek went on to produce chips for other calculator manufacturers and for its own calculators from its Corvus subsidiary.  It also became the major supplier of integrated circuits for H-P's scientific calculators.  Hewlett-Packard soon became Mostek's largest customer.

Early on, Mostek had an association with Sprague Electric Company, but was bought by United Technologies in the late 1970s, and then by SGS-Thomson in 1987.

For more information about Mostek see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mostek.

 

MOTOROLA - USA.
Motorola is not normally known for its calculator integrated circuits, but in 1968 the journal Electronics said that Sanyo had exhibited two calculators "built around Motorola large-scale -integration packages.  Sanyo intends to switch to domestic LSI packages as soon as Japanese semiconductor producers offer them."

 

National Semiconductor (NS) - USA.
Produced a wide range of calculator ICs, and hand-held calculators under its own name and also under the Novus name.  The calculators were very successful and sold in large numbers in the mid-1970s, see the Calculator Photo Library on this site.  However, after the mid-1970s, when the price of calculators plummeted and hence the profit, National Semiconductor stopped their manufacture.

 

NEC (Nippon Electric Company) - Japan.

 

Omron Tateishi - Japan.
The journal "Electronics" in April 1971 said of the Commodore C108 calculator "It's built around three MOS/LSI chips that Omron Tateishi claims were designed by its California subsidiary, Omron R&D, and fabricated by an undisclosed U.S. IC manufacturer."  The U.S. manufacturer was later named as Nortec Elctronics, Santa Clara, California.

 

Plessey - UK.
Plessey was a major company in Britain involved in radio and television-chassis production, but is especially noted for being at the forefront of developments in electronic telephone exchanges throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.  It produced a few calculator chip-sets in the early 1970s, such as used in the Addo-X 9675, and was taken over by GEC-Siemens in 1989.

 

RockwellLogo_1™  Rockwell (NRMEC - North-American Rockwell Microelectronics Corporation) - Anaheim, California, USA.

Originally a part of the Autonetics division of North American Aviation, a military contractor and part of the Rockwell organisation, NRMEC developed commercial chips and in 1969 it became independent of Autonetics, but still as part of Rockwell.
The journal Electronics reported in 1972[4]:  "... the beginnings of NRMEC first appeared in mid -1967 as part of the Autonetics division of North American Aviation. ... Then came the announcement in early 1969 of the initial contract from Japan's Hayakawa Electric, now renamed Sharp Corp. [see the Sharp QT-8D calculator], followed in mid-1970 by another Sharp award for more than $30 in calculator chip sets.
It now supplies MOS chips to major U.S. calculator manufacturers (Monroe, Victor, Singer-Friden), to Japan's Sharp Corp., and to five European companies, including Sumlock Anita (which reportedly has 60% of the UK market), Lagomarsino in Italy which markets under the Totalia label, and N.V. Philips in Bremen, Germany.
In June it will start shipping complete low-cost calculators to a number of customers - including Sears Roebuck.  Initial contracts are for 195,000 units that will retail for about $100.  The NRMEC machines use a single MOS chip, and will be the first mass-production item with liquid crystal displays.
Part of the company's success is probably due to its relative independence of the rest of North American Rockwell's electronics group.  It was 1969 when it was spun out of the Autonetics division into a new company ...
In MOS technology, NRMEC is rather conservative.  It sticks to high-threshold p-MOS ... In this it resembles the other large MOS producers, American Micro-systems Inc., Texas Instruments, and General Instrument Corp.
Outside MOS, however, NRMEC is more daring.  A production line of liquid crystals is in operation for the Sears calculators.
"

In the early 1970s Rockwell had a technical assistance agreement with Sharp and ICs with the same number can be seen with the Rockwell or the Sharp Logo.  Some Sharp calculators have a mixed sets of ICs from both manufacturers (see Prinztronic MC85/Sharp EL-811).

An advertisment in the journal Electronics of September 1970 proclaimed "North American Rockwell became the world's largest producer of advanced MOS/LSI circuits when the Sharp Corporation of Japan signed a $30-million contract for these components.
Sharp now makes more than 30,000 of these calculators a month.  Since the initial contract Sharp has signed an even larger follow-on contract.
"

 

Sanyo - Japan
Originally made calculator ICs under licence from General Instrument Corp.
In Sepetember 1969 Electronics reported "Japan's Sanyo Electric Co. is seeking government approval of a licensing arrangement reached with General Instrument Corp.  Under the arrangement, Sanyo will at first import and then manufacture the U.S. firm's metal, thick-oxide nitride silicon LSI circuits for use in the Japanese company's new miniature desk calculator.  The calculator is expected to go on the market early next year.  Terms of the 10-year licensing arrangement call for General Instrument to receive an $80,000 initial payment and a 3.25% royalty.  Although Sanyo will be allowed to sell the LSI circuits separately, the company didn't win an exclusivity clause.  Sanyo is investing $4.17 million in new production facilities to manufacture the circuits.  Domestic production is expected to start in June; the company's initial goal is 70,000 circuits.  The calculator itself has been redesigned so that each machine will require only four or five LSI circuits."

 

Sharp - Japan
Sharp was the first company to sell a calculator using LSI (Large Scale Integration) MOS (Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) integrated circuits in its Sharp QT8-D in 1969, thereby greatly reducing the component count.
In the early 1970s Rockwell had a technical assistance agreement with Sharp and ICs with the same number can be seen with the Rockwell or the Sharp Logo.  Some Sharp calculators have a mixed sets of ICs from both manufacturers (see Prinztronic MC85/Sharp EL-811).
In 1972 Sharp was the first to use CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) ICs in a calculator, the Sharp EL 801.  The advantage of CMOS is the low power requirement - one transistor of a switching pair is always off and current only flows in brief bursts during the switching period.

 

Solitron - USA.
Is still in business but no longer manufacturing calculator ICs.
At 3301 Electronics Way, West Palm Beach, FL 33407.

 

Standard Microsystems - USA.
Supplied TEALTRONIC[5] and Commodore.  "Though its headquarters were in Hauppauge, New York, the company opened a calculator microchip manufacturing facility in Silicon Valley to take advantage of the booming computer microchip market.  Unfortunately, one of the company's major customers, a Japanese firm, decided to cancel its order for chips in 1973."[6]

 

Texas Instruments (TI) - USA.
Started investigating the electronics of hand held calculators in the Cal-Tech project of 1965, which led to the patent for "Miniature Electronic Calculator".
TI ICs were used by Canon in the Pocketronic of 1970, one of the first hand held calculators.  The company was the second producer of a "calculator on a chip", in 1971 after Mostek, but went on to become one of the largest manufacturers of them.  In 1972 it started producing its own calculators with the launch of the Datamath, and continues to this day.

The Texas Instruments MOS/LSI integrated circuit numbering system (as used on chips in calculators of the vintage era) is as follows[7]:

T

TI MOS Prefix

M

S

Product status (Note A)

0

Product Identification Number (unique to each device)

1

0

3

N

Package (Note B)

C

Temperature Range (Note C)

Note A - Product Status

S

Standard devices

X

Prototype or experimental

C

Custom design

T

High reliability

Note B - Package

F

Flatpack

J

Ceramic dual-in-line

N

Ceramic dual-in-line

L

Plug-in package

U

Unencapsulated (beam lead, etc.)

Note C - Temperature Range

C

-25 to +85 C (commercial)

M

-55 to +125 C (military)

R

-55 to +85 C (reduced military)

S

Special range (as designated by customer)

Toshiba - Japan
Tokyo Shibaura Electric Co..
In 1972 Toshiba produced the first calculator CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) ICs, used in the Sharp EL 801.  The advantage of CMOS is the low power requirement - one transistor of a switching pair is always off and current only flows in brief bursts during the switching period.

 

WesternDigitalLogo_1 ™  Western Digital Corporation (WDC) - USA.


WDC made its money by selling calculator chips through the early years of the 1970s, and by 1975 WDC was the  largest independent calculator chip maker in the world. The oil crisis of the mid-1970s and the bankruptcy of its biggest calculator customer, Bowmar Instrument, changed its fortunes, however, and in 1976 Western Digital declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy[8].
WDC survived and started to manufacture disk drive controller integrated circuits which has led on to it becoming one of the largest manufacturers of hard disk drives.

 

 

References:

  1. "U.S. fires first shot at Japanese calculator lead", Electronics, February 15, 1971, p37.
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NEC.
  3. The Times, March 24, 1975.
  4. Franson, Paul, "NRMEC finds a winning system", Electronics, April 24, 1972, pp76-77.
  5. Owen, Kenneth, "American link expands range and techniques", The Times, 15 February, 1974.
  6. http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/standard-microsystems-corporation-history/
  7. (1971), "Texas Instruments Semiconductor Components Data Book Six: MOS/LSI & Hybrid", Texas Instruments.
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Digital.

Vintage Calculators

© Text & photographs copyright Nigel Tout   2000-2017  except where noted otherwise.