Empire of the Sum: The Rise and Reign of the Pocket Calculator

My wife made me aware of an interesting book that will be published next month: Empire of the Sum: The Rise and Reign of the Pocket Calculator. The author, Keith Houston, author of “Shady Characters”, has been mentioned on Bleistift before.

You can find out more about the book in this article by the economist: How the pocket calculator paved the way for the digital age.

A random photo of one of my calculators

4 thoughts on “Empire of the Sum: The Rise and Reign of the Pocket Calculator”

  1. Thank you for mentioning that book! I have preordered it a few months ago. The release has been delayed, but now it finally seems to be available. – “Shady Characters” is great, and I can also highly recommend “The Book” by the same author.

    Thank you also for showing that amazing device! How did you enter words, i. e. letters?

  2. Thank you for your comments.
    By today’s standard entering words is quite cumbersome. You pick the first letter by repeatedly pressing ABC1, then the second letter using ABC2, you can then go through the words in alphabetical order by pressing suchen -> or go back with suchen <-. The device was made in Japan by Sharp and was available there in different version. I assume Langenscheidt just provided the dictionary and paid Sharp to produce it for them.

  3. I love the rubber stamp with your name and address on it. A very different era – the calculator is now so cheap and throwaway for most people that they wouldn’t take the effort to put their name on it. If they lost it, they’d go to the supermarket and buy another for a few quid!

    When my dad was at uni in the early 1970s, towards the end of his degree, he could sign out a scientific calculator to borrow for a little while. They were early Sinclairs with LED displays and cost the equivalent of about £400 in today’s terms. It was apparently very primitive, slow, but a huge step up from the slide rule!

    Which is your main, daily calculator? Mine is an HP-12C financial calculator that I got around about 2010 or so. I’ve got a couple – one older than I am! – and also an 11C scientific that I haven’t really used.

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