From ENIAC to Calculator
Sperry Rand Calculators
by Guy Ball
Original article from The International Calculator Collector.
Few calculators have the heritage that Sperry Rand models do. You could say their great grandparent was the mighty UNIVAC "super-computer" (at least for its time) and you could look back to their cousins -- the innovative Burroughs and Remington mechanical and electromechanical adding machines. If you look closer into their family history, Sperry calculators even have a historic link with the Wright Brothers and their 12 second airplane flight at Kitty Hawk.
The mainframe computer company known as Sperry Rand marketed a line of Sperry Remington Rand calculators in the 1972-1975 timeframe. Unfortunately we know little of Sperry's calculator history.
What we've obtained comes mainly from models this writer owns or knows about and from newspaper advertisements, magazine articles, and office equipment catalog listings. The company itself (now named Unisys) doesn't even have any records in their archives of selling calculators.
But we do have some data anyway. Their first portable model appears to have been the 661, a compact 6-digit model that listed for about $80 in late 1972. A Los Angeles Times newspaper ad from December 15, 1972 discounts even that "low" price to $69.95. According to other publications, models, such as the 661D, 663, 663K, and 665, appeared within the year after.
The Sperry-Remington 661-D. Its display uses six individual vacuum-fluorescent tubes.
Interestingly, some of the same model numbers can be seen in radically different body styles. For instance, I have two 663s: a black plastic and aluminum model with a slope display using "mini-tubes" and another beige plastic version with a flat fluorescent display. Another larger body style, reminiscent of the larger Soundesign models, include the 803B, 803C and 809SR. These models have a standard 8-digit display, but have a larger "clunkier" keypad.
My favorite though has to be the SSR-8; a black, sleek model with hard angular edges. It always reminds me of a robot or something from a science fiction production. All of the models we know about were made in Japan and most were pretty unique looking from other brands. The exceptions would be the 80x series being similar to the Soundesign and a few other models resembling Casios (667) and Olympias (831 and 833). While Sperry apparently had others make their calculators for them, they did not just buy designs "off the shelf." Rather, they either designed some themselves and/or purchased the sole rights for designs made by others.
By 1976, Sperry was out of the calculator business to focus on their computer business. Like a majority of their competitors, they found profits in calculators hard to come by and left the business to the heavyweights like Texas Instruments, Hewlett Packard, Sharp, and Casio.
Known Sperry models: 661, 661D, 663, 663K, 665, 801, 801B, 803B, 803C, 807B, 809SR, 811 GT, 819, 821GT, 823GT, 825GT, 831GT, 833GT, 1000, 1005B, CP-100, SSR-8, Mini-Printer.
© Text & photographs copyright Nigel Tout 2000-2021 except where noted otherwise.