Electronic Calculators—Desktop Resources


Relatively few historians have focused on the history of the desktop electronic calculator as a separate product.  Mainframe computers, minicomputers, handheld calculators and personal computers have all received greater attention. In addition to examples in the Computer Collection, the National Museum of American History has a small amount of related trade literature, much of it mentioned in notes on individual devices. Other useful sources include:

Guy Ball and Bruce Flamm, The Complete Collector’s Guide to Pocket Calculators, Tustin, Calif.: Wilson/Barnett Publishing, 1997.

Alfred D. Chandler, Inventing the Electronic Century: The Epic Story of the Consumer Electronics and Computer Industries, New York: The Free Press, 2001. The volume gives an overview of the business history of consumer electronics and computing, with some discussion of Japanese firms.

Charles C. Kenney, Riding the Runaway Horse: The Rise and Decline of Wang Laboratories, Boston:  Little, Brown and Company, 1992.

Roger J. Sippl and Charles J. Sippl, Programmable Calculators: How to Use Them, Champaign, Illinois: Matrix Publishers, Inc., 1978. This volume gives a sense of the state of programmable calculators at the time it was written.

An Wang with Eugene Linden, Lessons: An Autobiography, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1986.

Large collections of electronic calculators are at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science at Cambridge University, the Computer History Museum in California, and in private hands. There are several useful websites, some limited to specific brands of calculator and some more general. Pocket calculators tend to be favored over the desktop models discussed here. The National Museum of American History computer collections also include has a few hundred pocket calculators, with a smaller number at the National Air and Space Museum.