Pocket Calculator


Calculators have become almost entirely unremarkable. They are now so cheap that credit-card sized versions can be given away as promotional devices. For many users they are simply a free app inside a smartphone, and there is no longer even a need for a dedicated piece of hardware.

So it is hard to recover the excitement represented by the first handheld electronic calculators. Electronic desktop machines had first been created in the 1960s, as an (expensive) challenge to existing mechanical calculators. Pocket versions arrived in the early 1970s as all the circuitry was concentrated onto a single integrated chip.

Prices quickly fell and the market grew rapidly. Within a few years, they were readily available for schoolchildren, prompting fears that skills in mental arithmetic would be lost. Such previous computing technologies as slide rules and printed logarithmic tables were suddenly obsolete: the electronic calculator signalled a future of revolutionary change.